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Mickey Callaway, Mets lose first as Steven Matz labors

Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) and catcher

Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) and catcher Kevin Plawecki (26) talk on the mond after giving up a homer during the fourth inning on Sunday, April 1, 2018 at Cit iField. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Mickey Callaway’s growing list of personal managerial milestones gained another Sunday: first loss.

The Mets dropped their series finale with the Cardinals, 5-1, at Citi Field. They missed out on the sweep on a day when Mets pitchers issued as many walks as Mets batters had hits (seven).

“If we win every series,” Callaway said, “we’re going to be in a good spot.”

Lefthander Steven Matz labored. He struggled with his pitch count (89 in four innings, with a 17-pitch fourth his most efficient frame) and control (three walks). Matz allowed three runs and four hits, including solo home runs by Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina. DeJong later hit a second homer.

It was trouble from the start for Matz, who in a scoreless first walked two batters and threw 26 pitches. He used fewer pitches but allowed lone runs in each of the next three innings.

Matz said he was frustrated by his lack of effectiveness, particularly because he had a strong pregame bullpen session. And he noted — accurately — that all three of St. Louis’ run-scoring hits against him were with two strikes.

“I just have to execute that pitch,” Matz said. “The main thing was I was maybe trying to do a little too much out there. I was really smooth and easy before the game, and I was feeling really confident going in there. Then when a hitter steps in, I try to make my pitches better. That’s when I get in trouble.”

As he did often during spring training, Callaway cited Matz’s confidence in himself and conviction with his pitches in relation to his success or lack thereof.

“It didn’t look like he had the confidence to throw it over [the plate],” Callaway said. “He just battled himself all [day].

“He just couldn’t get the ball over the plate consistently. He was in deep counts, falling behind, things like that. The one thing he did do was battle. Damage control was OK. He didn’t give up more than one run in any one inning.”

Matz’s early exit pushed Callaway into using all four Mets relievers who had not yet pitched: Paul Sewald (two innings), Jacob Rhame (1 2⁄3 innings), Jerry Blevins (one out) and AJ Ramos (one inning). Sewald and Rhame each allowed a run.

Five innings was a big ask of a shorthanded bullpen. Anthony Swarzak was unavailable with a sore left oblique and closer Jeurys Familia threw 30 pitches in a four-out save Saturday. Robert Gsellman, a starter making a transition to short relief, also pitched Saturday.

Now Sewald (55 pitches) and Rhame (30) are due for at least a day of rest.

“We were able to get through the game with the relievers we had available,” Callaway said.

For the Mets’ lineup, which was firing on all cylinders in the first two games, it wasn’t so much an issue of hitting with runners in scoring position as it was getting runners in scoring position. The Mets had only four at-bats in those situations. Amed Rosario’s RBI single in the second was the lone hit, momentarily tying the score.

Juan Lagares, playing for a second straight day after Brandon Nimmo was scratched with flu symptoms, went 3-for-4. He was the only Met with multiple hits. Through three games, Mets centerfielders have reached nine times in 13 plate appearances.

The 162-0 dream is over, but that’s OK.

“We weren’t going to go undefeated,” Kevin Plawecki said. “We’ll take it and move on.”

New York Sports