Matz takes ball looking to send Mets to World Series
Rookie lefty excited for first start at Wrigley as NY seeks NLCS sweep of Cubs
CHICAGO -- The team Steven Matz grew up rooting for from his Long Island childhood home about 50 miles east of Citi Field will take the field on Wednesday on the precipice of its first World Series berth since 2000 following a 5-2 victory over the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
And it will be Matz who can help push them there.
With just seven Major League starts to his name, Matz is ready for his biggest at a ballpark he's never been to and on a stage the organization hasn't played on since Matz was a high school first baseman. He's been tabbed as New York's Game 4 starter in an NLCS that shifted settings to Chicago after the Mets won a pair of games at home.
"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Matz said of making his second postseason start. "I've never been here before or played here before or even seen a game here. I'm really excited."
"I don't think any stage is too big," teammate Tyler Clippard added. "He'll be just fine."
Matz will be facing a Cubs team that has yet to lead in this best-of-seven series and one which has scored just five runs in three games off the Mets' other young starters.
Matz has become a little familiar with the ballpark over the last two days. He shagged balls during batting practice prior to settling into the visitors' dugout to watch Jacob deGrom start Game 3. A day earlier, the two trekked out to the center-field bleachers together and climbed inside and atop the iconic Wrigley Field scoreboard.
"Checked out all the scenery and stuff," Matz said of their self-guided tour. "It was pretty cool."
He spent Wednesday looking in at home plate from a much different vantage point, tasked with cooling off a Cubs offense that thrived in its home ballpark during the NL Division Series. It was an evening of seeing and adjusting, as Matz has never thrown a Major League pitch to anyone on Chicago's roster.
He'll be pitching on seven days of rest after manager Terry Collins was unable to find a spot to use Matz in relief during the first two games of the series. Matz said he's unfazed by the long layoff. Just consider that his start in Game 4 of the NLDS came after an 18-day stretch in which his only game action came during a Florida intrasquad affair.
Matz allowed three runs on six hits over five innings in his postseason debut, a loss to the Dodgers.
The Mets, however, are high on Matz's potential, his progress really only thwarted thus far by injuries. Matz, a second-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made only six Minor League starts during his first three full professional seasons after needing to undergo Tommy John surgery and then enduring complications in his recovery.
This year it was a tear in his left lat muscle that knocked Matz from the Mets' rotation just two starts into his big league stay. His September return, however, was promising, with Matz posting a 2.86 ERA over four starts to earn a place on the organization's playoff roster.
"This guy's got plus stuff," Collins said. "He's got a plus fastball. He's going to be 94-to-97 [mph]. He's got a plus curveball. He's got a good changeup. If this guy runs out there 28 to 30 times, he's going to win some ballgames for you."
That's great for projecting what could be for New York's dynamic young rotation. But right now, the Mets only need Matz to win one.
"They look like a tough lineup," Matz said of the Cubs. "They're a bunch of young, fiery guys. Matt [Harvey] and Noah [Syndergaard] have done a great job the first two games."