Steven Matz said his second rehab start could not have gone any better. The Mets lefthander returned to the venue of one of the biggest triumphs in his professional career and was once again dominant.
Matz allowed one base runner and struck out six in six shutout innings as the Binghamton Mets downed the Erie Seawolves, 3-1, before a crowd of 3,759 in an Eastern League game at NYSEG Stadium.
Matz, who allowed two hits in 71/3 innings in leading Binghamton to the Eastern League championship last year, extended that mound brilliance Wednesday night.
He threw a total of 56 pitches, 41 for strikes. He allowed a two-out, first-pitch single to Jeff McVaney in the first inning and then retired 16 batters in a row. In all, he set down 18 of 19 batters.
"I felt really good out there," said Matz, who is expected to need at least one more rehab start.
"I wasn't expecting to go six innings and I'm really happy with that. They were fairly aggressive and I had real good command."
Matz, who has been on the disabled list since July 6 with a partial tear of the lat muscle on his left side, was expected to throw between 60 to 65 pitches with Binghamton.
"The line score speaks for itself," Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez said. "He looks healthy. Our job is to get him ready for the big club. He pitched great but nothing can compare to his outing in the championship game last year."
Matz might disagree. He seemed content and excited about his outing after the game. "It's exciting to even think about going back," he said. "They're playing great and joining that rotation for the playoff push is all I want."
Matz struck out the side in the third inning and fanned the first two batters of the fourth. His velocity was consistently between 94 and 95 miles per hour and his curveball had exceptional bite at 78 mph. When he mixed in an 82-84-mph changeup, he was just nasty.
"I was in a great rhythm and filling up the strike zone," Matz said. "I didn't shake off [Xorge] Carrillo at all. I just felt so comfortable. Tonight, I thought I was closer to where I was before I was injured."Matz finished his night with a 1-2-3 sixth inning that included a pitch sequence that should catch the attention of the Mets brass, who will decide when he should make his return to the big league team.
With one out in the sixth, Matz threw a 95-mph fastball on the inner half to get ahead in the count against the lefthanded hitting James Robbins. He then broke off a 76-mph curveball that froze Robbins for the strikeout.
"It's unfair when you can locate the fastball that way and then come back with an off-speed pitch on a guy," Matz said. "It was exciting to be back here and have a strong performance."
Carrillo said it was like old times with Matz. "He's the same guy. He trusted me well on whatever I put down. He pounded the zone. He's just about ready."
Matz went 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 132/3 innings for the Mets before being sidelined.
His pitch efficiency sent the home crowd home with a win in a game that only lasted an hour and 48 minutes.
Matz said he doesn't know if he'll make one more rehab start or be activated from the DL.
"I'm not really sure," he said. "We'll see."