CINCINNATI - Forty-two minutes after the Mets clinched the NL East crown Saturday night, Steven Matz was walking around the visiting clubhouse with an ear-to-ear grin while sporting a champagne-soaked "The East Is Ours" T-shirt.

The 24-year-old former Ward Melville star had begun the season with Class A St. Lucie. Now he is on his way to probably starting a playoff game as a member of the Mets' hard-throwing young rotation.

How were the folks back home enjoying the moment? Matz wasn't sure yet. Forty-two minutes after Jeurys Familia struck out Jay Bruce for the final out of the Mets' 10-2 win, the Long Island lefty hadn't had a chance to connect.

Hopefully, the folks back home understood.

"I haven't even checked my phone yet," Matz said while pointing across the room to his locker.

Like the rest of the lockers in the clubhouse, Matz's was behind plastic to protect the players' belongings from the spraying of champagne.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"This is a lot of fun," Matz said. "It's awesome. This is what you work for."

Matz's work began in spring training, when he gave Mets brass a peek at what a weapon he could be. He went from St. Lucie to Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas to the Mets for a June 28 debut for the ages: He threw 72/3 innings and had three hits and four RBIs in a victory over the Reds at Citi Field.

He is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in six big-league starts.

Matz's second outing was six shutout innings against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on July 5. If the Mets win home-field advantage for the NLDS and neither team sweeps, Matz likely will be right back in L.A. starting Game 4.

If the Dodgers win home field, Matz again will get to pitch in front of the hometown fans. Either way, it's a step up from when he started the championship games the previous two seasons for low Class A Savannah and then Binghamton.

Mets videos

"There's no comparison," Matz said. "This is where you want to be."