The Mets’ struggles are reaching epic proportions.
They lost again Saturday night, 2-0 to the Rockies, and have not had a lead in 45 innings since their blowout win in San Diego last Sunday. The Mets have lost five in a row and are 6-13 since their 11-1 start.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed around here,” Brandon Nimmo said.
For a third time in four games, the Mets did not score. This time, they wasted lefthander Steven Matz’s longest and perhaps best start since July.
Matz tossed six innings of one-run ball, striking out five and walking one. The Rockies managed only three hits against him, including Nolan Arenado’s home run to straightaway center in the first inning.
There was no sign of the back tightness he experienced last weekend that caused the Mets to push his start from Tuesday to Saturday. Instead, Matz cruised.
“I saw it in his face and his demeanor and the way he went about his business tonight from pitch one,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “There was a little edge to him that I haven’t seen before. You watch [Max] Scherzer and those guys who are really aggressive attacking hitters, I felt like he was doing that, a little something extra at the end of his release. It was very positive.”
Callaway pointed to Matz’s between-pitch routine as a reason for his effectiveness. Last time out, in a loss to St. Louis, Matz unraveled when the Cardinals had baserunners. He and Callaway considered it a mental issue, not a physical one, and attempted to fix it by giving Matz a brief checklist of behaviors to complete before he got back on the mound before every pitch.
“That’s something I was mindful of today,” Matz said. “It was really just take a step back, I was fixing my hat, I had my glove right by my side and step on the mound. Reset between every pitch. Give myself a second [to think about] what I want to do and go out there and do it.”
Matz was efficient while tossing 88 pitches (52 strikes) — the same total he had in only 3 1⁄3 innings in his previous start.
When it came to pitching with men on base, Matz approached perfection. Colorado went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. After Arenado went deep — the type of 430-foot shot that can rattle a pitcher — Matz got Trevor Story looking, painting the corner with a changeup. After Chris Iannetta singled to lead off the second and Noel Cuevas lined out to rightfield, Matz struck out Carlos Gonzalez and got Pat Valaika to tap to third.
“There wasn’t a lot to get rattled about,” Callaway said. “He did a really good job of that tempo between pitches. That will be a big key for him moving forward.”
After striking out Arenado to end the sixth, Matz walked slowly to the dugout, his personal mission accomplished.
The Mets’ offense failed to do the same, though. Chad Bettis scattered six hits and a walk in seven innings. The Mets put the potential tying run on second in the sixth, but Todd Frazier lined into a double play. They did it again in the eighth, but Asdrubal Cabrera struck out and Jay Bruce flied out to left.
Callaway said he’s a believer in altering the lineup to try to shake an offense out of a slump. But he already has tried that in recent days, even giving Michael Conforto the day off Saturday and leaving him on the bench when the Mets needed a pinch hitter late.
“In baseball, these spurts happen,” Callaway said. “We have to stick with our processes and our routines. That’s the way to counteract what’s happening. If we based all our decision-making on just results, we’d be in trouble.”