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LI's Steven Matz ready for biggest game of his life

New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32)

New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) speaks to media during Game 3 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals at Citi Field on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The clock had just struck midnight, the start of the biggest day of Steven Matz's baseball life, when he left his Mets teammates behind and strode down the hall in search of friends and relatives.

Wearing an Ole Country trucker hat backward, jeans and a flannel shirt, he hugged his mother, shook his father's hand and then walked away, hand in hand with his girlfriend.

If you did not know any better, you'd have thought it was the scene after a Ward Melville High School game, circa 2009, just a kid enjoying the life of a rising athletic star from a close family.

But this was Citi Field, 2015, and Matz suddenly finds himself in a very grown-up situation that would have been unfathomable five months ago, let alone five years ago.

Stony Brook's favorite lefthanded pitcher will take the mound on Halloween night in Game 4 of the World Series for the Mets against the Royals, with much of Gotham relying on him.

Had the Mets lost Game 3, Matz would have been operating under relatively little pressure. The Series would have been over, for all practical purposes, the primary goal merely avoiding a sweep.

Not now. Matz knew when he departed the clubhouse Friday night that the Mets will hand him the ball with a chance to tie the Series at two -- and with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom up next.

Yikes! Good thing Matz has a mother so conveniently located for additional hugs if needed. He planned to sleep in his childhood room Friday night, then drive himself to Citi Field for his Speaking of which, Matz's background as a metropolitan-area kid and Mets fan inevitably was going to be irresistible fodder for the national new media this weekend.

But after Newsday reported Matz's commuting plans Monday that angle grew even more irresistible. You almost had to feel bad for him Friday as he fielded more questions in a news conference about his childhood than about this young adulthood.

He would have been within his rights to put a halt to the historical questions and say, "Hey, you realize I am pitching in an actual, current World Series game, right?"

Well, here we are, and what about it for a guy with a grand total of eight career major league starts? Eight!

Given his lack of experience, do his teammates have faith in him in this spot?

"A hundred percent," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said.

Why so? "Why do I believe in my teammate? Is that what you're asking?"

Well, there is that lack of experience on a stage such as the World Series. "None of our starters have pitched in the World Series," d'Arnaud said. "We've all had confidence in him since Day One and we all have confidence in him now."

Reliever Tyler Clippard is 30 and has seen many pitchers come and go since hitting the big leagues as a Yankee in 2007, and making his debut against the Mets.

Can the Mets' Matz do this?

"Well, yeah, absolutely, man," he said. "I think he's proven that already in his young career. He obviously has electric stuff. He has the demeanor and everything. He has everything he needs. We feel good with what he's doing right now."

Jeurys Familia learned the harsh realities of Series scrutiny when he blew a save in his first opportunity in Game 1. He just smiled when asked whether he is comfortable with Matz going in Game 4.

"I mean, he's got great stuff," Familia said. "If you believe in your stuff you can do whatever you want. You're going to have a bad day, yes, but if you believe you're going to have more better days than bad days."

That is true. But Matz's reality is this: There is only one day that matters now.


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