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Chris Mazza's MLB debut a silver lining for Mets

Chris Mazza reacts after a strikeout during his

Chris Mazza reacts after a strikeout during his big-league debut for Mets at Citi Field on Saturday, June 29, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Chris Mazza generated appreciative cheers from a crowd that hasn't had much to applaud lately, especially concerning the Mets’ faulty bullpen, when he made a fully-extended diving attempt at a pop-up in foul territory in the sixth inning Saturday.

Mazza didn’t make that grab, but the 29-year-old rookie at least deserved and earned recognition for his work on the mound, as well.

The career minor-leaguer finally made his debut in the majors, tossing four strong innings after an hour-plus rain delay before Seth Lugo suffered the pen's 21st blown save of the season in a skid-extending 5-4 loss to Atlanta at Citi Field.  

“It was amazing. It was a dream come true," Mazza said. "I'm never gonna forget it for the rest of my life."

After spending eight seasons in professional ball without a whiff of The Show, the 29-year-old Mazza had admitted he was “trying to hold back tears” when the Mets called him up from Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday.

Mazza, whose parents were in attendance from California, replaced Steven Matz following a 70-minute rain delay to open the third inning. 

"When you're in the position I'm at, they're gonna use me as long relief and once that tarp goes on, you have it in the back of your head to get ready just in case," Mazza said. 

After allowing a leadoff single to Ronald Acuna Jr. and a run-scoring double by Dansby Swanson, Mazza froze Freddie Freeman for his first career strikeout and then got out of the inning. 

"Two hits right away was not how I planned it, kind of a little nerves," said Mazza, who had posted a 3.59 ERA over 12 starts split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse this season. "Once that went away,  now it's time to compete and keep it to just one run." 

Catcher Wilson Ramos immediately threw the Freeman strikeout ball back to Mazza, but Todd Frazier stepped in and called time so the righty could toss the keepsake back to the dugout. 

"It was on my mind, but I wasn't going to do it myself," Mazza joked. "I was gonna wait for somebody else to tell me. I wasn't going to be that guy."

Mazza didn’t concede another run through the end of the sixth and left in line for the win, handing a 4-3 lead to Lugo, who flushed it in the eighth on back-to-back homers (on back-to-back pitches) by Nick Markakis and Austin Riley.

Mazza, a former 27th-round draft pick by the Twins out of a California junior college in 2011, was selected by the Mets out of Seattle’s system in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December. 

The Mets summoned Mazza to replace rotation fill-in Walker Lockett on the 25-man roster, but the righty is a strong candidate to be optioned with Noah Syndergaard slated to come off the disabled list to start Sunday's series finale.

“You're not really worried about personal wins, but he pitched good enough to get a win and was in line for it," Mickey Callaway said. "He did a great job and was impressive.  So that is a positive to take out of tonight." 

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