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Matz exits with left middle finger discomfort

X-rays taken during game negative, but southpaw might not be ready for next start
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Steven Matz entered the clubhouse on Tuesday night dejected, frustrated and injured. It wasn't the look of someone celebrating a 27th birthday, or of someone who had the start he did in the Mets' 7-6 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

The left-hander exited Tuesday night's game in the bottom of the fourth inning with discomfort in the middle finger of his left hand. X-rays taken during the game were negative, but Matz was in a splint after the game and will receive an MRI scan on Wednesday. The injury potentially further thins a Mets rotation that is already doing without ace Noah Syndergaard, who was placed on the disabled list earlier on Tuesday.

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ATLANTA -- Steven Matz entered the clubhouse on Tuesday night dejected, frustrated and injured. It wasn't the look of someone celebrating a 27th birthday, or of someone who had the start he did in the Mets' 7-6 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

The left-hander exited Tuesday night's game in the bottom of the fourth inning with discomfort in the middle finger of his left hand. X-rays taken during the game were negative, but Matz was in a splint after the game and will receive an MRI scan on Wednesday. The injury potentially further thins a Mets rotation that is already doing without ace Noah Syndergaard, who was placed on the disabled list earlier on Tuesday.

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Matz finished the night allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out two. Before Tuesday's game, Matz had allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts and one earned run or fewer in four of those starts.

"Looking at it now, yeah, I really felt like I was in a groove and I felt like I was really where I needed to be," Matz said. "Pitches were real crisp, so it would have been nice to lock some more innings in today and keep that routine going and keep the ball moving there. It's not ideal."

Before he exited the game, things were looking good for Matz, who had tossed three scoreless innings and just hit his first double of the season in the top of the fourth. But something about Matz's warmup pitches before the bottom of the frame drew manager Mickey Callaway and the training staff to the mound, and Matz was pulled shortly thereafter.

The injury occurred moments before Matz's double in the top of the fourth, when he fouled off an Anibal Sanchez four-seam fastball. Matz's bat flew from his hands, almost hitting on-deck batter Amed Rosario. But as the bat was leaving Matz hands, it pulled his pitching hand's middle finger all the way back.

Rosario and Matz laughed it off after he picked his bat up and went back to box, but then Matz realized it was not a laughing matter.

"I didn't feel anything at first," Matz said. "I just went and grabbed my bat and obviously, it didn't affect me that much [until I got to] second base. It started to throb a little out there. Then, I threw a couple of pitches and felt it and [catcher] Devin [Mesoraco] kind of noticed, so I called him out there."

Callaway knew that taking out Matz meant dipping into an already dwindling bullpen. And while Matz was in a groove, it wasn't worth another blow to the starting pitching staff.

"[Matz] wanted to continue to try to pitch, but he was feeling it when he was warming up," Callaway said. "We just can't take that chance."

Matz is now the second Mets pitcher to go down in less than 24 hours, as Syndergaard was placed on the 10-day DL earlier on Tuesday afternoon with a strained ligament in his right index finger.

As Matz now awaits more tests and results, the Mets only have Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas and Zack Wheeler as their tried and trusted starters. They traded Matt Harvey to the Reds earlier in May after designating him for assignment. Now, because of the recent injuries, reliever Seth Lugo will have a chance at a starting slot on Thursday when the Mets face the Cubs.

But moving Lugo from reliever to starter only shrinks the bullpen further. It's clear that help should be on the way soon. It is unclear who would take Matz's spot if he were to miss one or more starts in addition to Syndergaard's absence.

"I don't know [what the plan is moving forward]. We'll see. I haven't even discussed it," Callaway said after the game Tuesday night. "We are going to have to make some moves and get some arms in here."

Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

New York Mets, Steven Matz