48° Good Afternoon
48° Good Afternoon

Steven Matz on the threshold of a dream

New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz speaks

New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz speaks to media before Game 3 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals at Citi Field on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

For Steven Matz, the home-field advantage starts in his parents' Stony Brook home and cruises past Route 347. It weaves through the serpentine curves of the Northern State Parkway and lives in the Citi Field stands along the first-base line, where his family usually sits during his starts.

On Saturday, his day will begin in his childhood bed and take him to the furthest reaches of his wildest dreams.

The narrative writes itself: Hometown boy makes good, fights his way through the minor leagues and injury, and pitches for the team he grew up rooting for. But what Steven Matz is about to do is Long Island goes to Hollywood: In Game 4 of the World Series, the rookie is tasked with keeping hope alive -- the same hope he saw die in Bernie Williams' glove in 2000 and with Carlos Beltran's buckled knees in 2006.

"I always thought about" pitching in the World Series, he said Friday before Game 3. "I didn't know it was actually going to come to truth or whatever. It's actually amazing."

Amazing is going to sleep in your childhood bed, waking up -- and driving to your World Series start.

A quintessential Long Islander, Matz, 24, parses his commute in terms of traffic probability, not cosmic meaning. "We're on off-hours, so there's not much traffic," he said. "It's not too terrible. It's been pretty awesome to be able to do that."

He made six starts in the regular season, going 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA, but was hamstrung by injury. Matz was shut down in July with a partially torn lat muscle and wasn't activated until September. Then he made four more starts before a sore back knocked him out until the NLDS. His return was rocky, as he allowed three runs and six hits in five innings against the Dodgers in Game 4 and lost for the first time as a major-leaguer. Then, in the NLCS-clinching Game 4 against the Cubs, Matz allowed one run and four hits but was pulled with a five-run lead in the fifth inning after allowing back-to-back two-out singles, making him ineligible to get the win.

The challenge will be even greater against the Royals, a pesky, persistent offensive menace and a stark contrast to the free-swinging Cubs.

This is the team, after all, that made Jacob deGrom look downright ordinary.

Despite all this, Matz, a man of few words, maintains that preternatural calm that has marked his playoff run. It's exactly what the Mets want. If his nerves weren't desensitized before this postseason, they will be after it.

"This is where you want to be in baseball," said Matz, who added that he'll have "a huge amount of family members attending" Game 3. "This is what you write up in your backyard when you're playing Wiffle ball."

And while watching the Mets on TV.

He loved Mike Piazza growing up, and Johan Santana. He remembers Endy Chavez defying gravity to rob Scott Rolen of a home run in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. He was 15 and pitching for Ward Melville at the time.

"It's a pretty big blessing to be here," he said. "This is the dream." On Saturday night, it becomes as real as it gets.


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