WASHINGTON — Steven Matz has two issues that tend to hold him back: health and controlling his emotions. For the most part, neither has been a problem this season.
After Matz’s emotional outing in the Mets’ 8-6 victory over the Nationals on Sunday, the best thing that can be said for the Long Island lefty is that he’s still healthy.
Matz pawed the mound like an angry cat during a three-inning stint in which he allowed 10 baserunners (five hits, four walks and one hit by pitch). He clearly was upset as he sat on the bench after the frustrating outing.
Happily for Matz and the Mets, he managed to limit the damage to three runs, all coming when the Nationals batted around in the third. And when the Mets scored four times in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead, Matz was off the hook. He ended up with a no-decision as the Mets took three of four in their final road series of the year.
“I think that as his pitch count got up, he still did a good job only holding them to three runs when he wasn’t probably near his best or even near his average,” Mickey Callaway said. “He battled and I’m proud of that. We want our guys to go out there even when they have their worst nights to continue to battle, and I thought he did that.”
Drew Gagnon (2-1) followed Matz and picked up the win with two scoreless innings of relief. Anthony Swarzak, the Mets’ seventh pitcher, got the final five outs for his fourth save. The game took 4:14 after a 25-minute rain delay before the first pitch.
Matz had a 2.29 ERA in his previous six starts and had homered in each of his previous two (he had a sacrifice bunt in his only plate appearance Sunday). He has one more start to go into the offseason on a high note. That will come Saturday night against Miami at Citi Field in what likely will be David Wright’s final game. It will be Matz’s 30th start of the season.
“Huge thing is just getting the ball and running out there,” said Matz, who recovered after spending Aug. 1-16 on the disabled list with a strained left elbow. “You learn a lot every time you grab that ball and toe the rubber. This year, going pole-to-pole the whole season, it’s the first time I’ve ever done that. Now I know what it takes.”
The Mets were leading 1-0 when Victor Robles led off the third with a homer to left. Matz walked Trea Turner, who stole second and scored on Bryce Harper’s double to make it 2-1.
Pitching coach Dave Eiland visited Matz, who next allowed a single to Anthony Rendon and hit Mark Reynolds with a pitch to load the bases. He struck out Adrian Sanchez for the first out but walked Spencer Kieboom on a high 3-and-2 pitch to force in a run and make it 3-1.
Matz got out of the jam by getting a 1-2 putout on pitcher Erick Fedde’s safety-squeeze bunt attempt and striking out Michael A. Taylor.
Eiland and Callaway talked with Matz in the dugout after the inning. Matz was removed for a pinch hitter after needing 78 pitches to get through three innings in rough weather conditions.
“I didn’t think that affected me out there,” he said. “I just didn’t make some pitches. I struggled with my command last game, too.”
The Mets retook the lead in the fourth. Jeff McNeil (4-for-5, walk) singled home a run and Michael Conforto hit a bases-loaded triple past a diving Taylor to make it 5-3.
It was McNeil’s eighth game with at least three hits this season and his third with four hits. The rookie is batting .340.
The Mets scored two in the fifth and one in the sixth to take an 8-3 lead, which helped them withstand Washington’s three-run eighth.
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