Steven Matz received a warm welcome-back ovation in his return to Citi Field with Toronto on Friday night, and the lefthander from Stony Brook proceeded to throw a very good game. But a rookie righthander for his old team was even better.
Tylor Megill showed up in June as an injury fill-in for the Mets, but he has been much more than just another arm coming down from Syracuse.
When his latest start was over, Megill had thrown six shutout innings for the second straight outing. This time he picked up his first major-league win, a 3-0 decision.
"It’s been very surprising," manager Luis Rojas said. " . . . This kid has been a blessing for us."
When Matz departed with two outs in the sixth, he had allowed only two runs, four hits and three walks, striking out five. But Megill yielded only two hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Pete Alonso drove in all of the runs with two homers and Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Edwin Diaz finished off a combined three-hitter for the NL East-leading Mets (51-43).
"I go out there thinking I’m the best man out there," Megill said. "There’s no reason to be scared when I go out there."
After six starts, he’s 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA. Megill, who began the season with Double-A Binghamton, has allowed one run or fewer four times.
"It just shows to myself that my stuff plays at this level," he said.
After the Mets gave up on Matz in January, dealing him to the Blue Jays for three pitchers, acting general manager Zack Scott recently has shopped for starting pitching to help the team’s injury-ravaged rotation. He made a move before the game, acquiring 41-year-old lefthander Rich Hill from the Rays.
If Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco come off the injured list soon, they will join Taijuan Walker, Marcus Stroman and presumably Hill in the rotation. But it seems Megill is going to have a role on this team.
"This guy’s here and he’s here to stay," Rojas said.
Brandon Nimmo got the Mets’ first-inning rally started, working a leadoff walk. Then Alonso sent a 95-mph fastball 406 feet into the leftfield seats.
"I definitely had some emotions," said Matz, 8-5 with a 4.34 ERA. "I had a lot of family there and being with the organization for like 12 years. But after that first inning, I was able to settle down and go back and work."
A problem did crop up with two outs in the fifth. Megill picked up his first major-league hit with a single and Nimmo followed with a single, but Matz got Alonso on a foul pop.
The Jays (48-45) managed just a single by Cavan Biggio in the second and a single by Alejandro Kirk in the fifth against Megill.
"Tylor’s been absolutely incredible," Alonso said. "He’s got moxie and poise, and he executes out there."
Alonso put an exclamation point on the win with his 21st homer, a 450-foot shot to left-center in the eighth.
"As games start getting more and more meaningful," he said, "I want to be able to keep hitting my stride and just keep getting better and take my performance to another level night in and night out."
Notes & quotes: Jeff McNeil sat out the game and Rojas said he had "a little fatigue" in his left leg. McNeil was out for more than a month in the first half with a strained left hamstring . . . The Cubs claimed outfielder Johneshwy Fargas off waivers from the Mets.
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