MIAMI — Based on the astonishing casualty rate for Mets pitchers on this road trip, the bar wasn’t set very high Wednesday night for Steven Matz at Marlins Park.
Provide a half-dozen quality innings. Walk off the mound under his own power.
Sounds simple enough. But anyone wearing a Mets uniform deserves to be counted on the endangered-species list. One minute they’re here, the next they’re gone.
Fortunately, Matz stuck around for seven scoreless innings in helping to deliver an 8-0 victory over the Marlins, with Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson supplying a pair of home runs for the Mets’ fourth win in five games.
Matz, as one of seven starters to spend time on the disabled list this season, missed the first eight weeks because of elbow inflammation. But now the Mets are counting on him to be a pillar of the damaged rotation, and Matz’s 110-pitch effort, which included six hits — all singles — trimmed his ERA to 2.67. He walked one and struck out four, and by pitching more to contact, Matz has made it through seven innings in three of his four starts.
“I think I was just letting them put the ball in play,” said Matz, who has a streak of nine straight starts of six or more innings, dating to July 24 of last season. “Just getting ground balls to [Jose] Reyes and Cabrera.”
Cabrera, who publicly lobbied to be traded last Friday, had two hits and is 10-for-21 (.476) with a home run, a double and four walks since he asked out. The only thing able to slow him down Wednesday was his legs cramping up in the seventh inning — he was replaced by newly-recalled Matt Reynolds for the eighth — but Cabrera said afterward he was fine. Granderson, getting an extended run in the leadoff spot with Michael Conforto (bruised hand) still hurting, drilled his fifth homer in seven games and is 12-for-31 (.387) on the road trip.
“I wish I could bottle it up,” Granderson said.
A few hours before the game, Robert Gsellman was placed on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Zack Wheeler (biceps tendinitis) was sidelined a week earlier. Still, assistant general manager John Ricco issued a pregame vote of confidence to the team’s training staff, with Matz — saddled with his own long injury history — about to take the mound.
“Sometimes you do run into a string of bad luck,” Ricco said. “But we’re constantly evaluating and trying to get better.”
With Matz, however, it appears his luck is turning. His last time out, June 22 at Dodger Stadium, Matz allowed only three hits in his six innings, but two were home runs in the Mets’ 6-3 loss. On Wednesday, however, Matz again looked comfortable at Marlins Park (1.59 ERA in two previous starts) and the Mets staked him to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning that they steadily added to.
From there, Matz easily worked around the few nicks the Marlins could muster. Only two runners reached second base, and in the third inning, Matz got Giancarlo Stanton to bounce into a double play to end a scoring threat, then retired 11 of 15 before calling it a night after the seventh.
As for Cabrera, he rocked the Mets’ already sinking ship last Friday in San Francisco, where he showed up for work, fresh off the disabled list, and told the assembled media before that night’s game he wanted to be traded. Since then, however, he’s never looked better, and Wednesday hit a long two-run homer in the first inning, his seventh.
“I’m a professional player,” Cabrera said of his resurgence at second base, a switch that he believes wasn’t handled well by management. “So I just do my job at any position.”
On the list of the Mets’ potential trade chips, Cabrera is well below Granderson, Jay Bruce, Addison Reed and probably Jerry Blevins. But at the moment, it’s too early to gauge, as Ricco expressed before the game.
“We’ve put some feelers out for a lot of players,” Ricco said. “It’s that time of year. It’s fair to say everything right now has been preliminary.”