Steven Matz pitched five shutout innings and then sat back to watch the Mets defeat the Nationals on Saturday at Citi Field on the strength of five home runs. Matz wasn’t the recipient of the power surge, but he still enjoyed watching from the dugout.
Call it a good no-decision, his second in two starts.
“It’s awesome. It’s a really fun team,’’ Matz said after the 6-5 victory. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys in here. And it was really a fun game. It’s cool to be a part of.’’
Matz threw 103 pitches, allowing two hits and four walks with eight strikeouts. His pitch count did him in, but Mickey Callaway said the lefthander gave the team what it needed.
“I thought he did a great job,’’ the manager said. “He threw 51 pitches through two. Then after that, you’re like, ‘OK, well, it’s gonna be tough to go six or seven. Just give us five,’ and he settled in. He battled through those first two innings, settled in and gave us five great innings against a great team and great pitcher. And when you do that, that’s the difference between a bad pitcher and a really good pitcher . . . When you don’t quite have your stuff, you get through the moments that otherwise would have hurt you, and he did that today. And that’s why he’s gonna have a great year for us.’’
Matz has 11 strikeouts in 10 1⁄3 innings in his two starts. His ERA is 0.87.
Matz walked two batters in the first inning but also struck out two, fanning Juan Soto for the third out. In the second, he allowed a single to leadoff batter Ryan Zimmerman and walked Yan Gomes. After a strikeout of Wilmer Difo, Patrick Corbin’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, but Matz struck out Victor Robles for the third out.
“Really, those pitches are what counts most when you get runners in scoring position,’’ said Matz, who grew up on Long Island and pitched for Ward Melville High School. “Little room for error, so I was happy I was able to get out of it.’’
Said catcher Wilson Ramos: “He attacked the hitters really well, he never lost his focus. Beginning of the game, a couple of walks, but he still was [focused] on those hitters. That was a great game for him . . . That’s what we need, a good five or six innings.’’
The Mets have made a subtle change with Matz’s positioning on the pitching rubber, moving him to the first-base side. That has enabled him to better locate the outside corner against righthanded hitters. “I felt really comfortable going away to righties, especially,’’ he said. “Wilson kept calling it; he had confidence in it. It worked out well today.
“Really, my bread and butter my whole career is ‘fastball inside,’ so if I have the down-and-away working for me as something I can always go back to, I think it’s huge. It opens up both sides of the plate for me.’’
Matz also has improved his changeup. “That’s something I’ve been really happy with that last start and this start and toward the end of spring training,’’ he said. “It’s been down in the zone, so that’s where it’s most effective, so it’s been working real well for me.’’