It was a lazy Saturday morning for Steven Matz -- slow and meandering, comforting and familiar. Absolutely nothing like his night.
Matz woke up at his parents' house and went for bagels with his dad -- this new shop, Ron Matz said, right next to the McDonald's on Route 347. Family popped in to wish Steven luck. His girlfriend came to visit; her sister did, too. He handed out candy to kids in costumes.
Steven was calm -- he's always calm, Ron said -- and the two chatted a bit about what was about to happen. Because on this particular Saturday, Steven Matz had to go to work.
That evening, he entered World Series Game 4 with two possible options: do everything he could to even up the series and give the Ya Gotta Believers a reason to believe, or place the Mets at the brink of elimination.
His ninth major-league start began brilliantly and ended rockily, but Matz did exactly what he was asked to do: He kept the Mets in it and left in the sixth with a 3-2 lead. It didn't last, though. The bullpen and the defense imploded, Matz got a no-decision and the Mets now face a 3-1 series deficit.
"It's tough," he said. "Nobody wants to lose. We're all grinding this out the best we can . . . But it's baseball. We still have to win three."
Matz pitched five innings- plus, allowing two runs, seven hits and no walks and striking out five. He didn't allow a batter to reach scoring position until the fifth, when he seemed to tire considerably, showing a drop in velocity and allowing a run-scoring single by Alex Gordon. In the sixth, he gave up a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist and an RBI single by Lorenzo Cain before Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon got out of the inning.
Matz threw 84 pitches, 60 for strikes. For this contact-heavy club, he leaned harder on his breaking pitches. He remained composed -- and his dad tried his best to stay that way, too.
"I asked him this morning -- 'Are you nervous, excited?' " Ron Matz said. "He said, 'Right now, I'm fine. I'll get a little jittery before the game.' That's the way he is. He's calm. He doesn't really show much emotion. I don't know, I think my father is much more like that. He's pretty even-keeled. Not me. I'm more nervous."
But even his father might be surprised to hear this: For all his preternatural calm, it all finally got to Matz, if only for a moment.
"I was really nervous" before the game, he said. "I had a lot of nerves, but once I got out there, I settled down. I felt good. It was just a game after that . . . I felt good right out of the gate."
Part of Steven's zen comes from having been here before and having seen results (though never at this stage -- nothing is like this stage).
A professional vanquisher of droughts, he led Ward Melville to its first league title in 35 years. He was on the hill for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats for its league championship (a 17-year drought) and for the Binghamton Mets' league championship (20 years). They won both.
The challenge is greater now - the stage, too. "This would be 29 years" without a World Series, Ron Matz said. He's a lifelong Mets fan, and when the Mets won it in 1986, he and his new wife, Lori, danced around their unfurnished new home. "It would be just amazing," Ron said. "It's been such a ride."
For his son, too. Even though the Mets face elimination Sunday night, and even though his impressive rookie year has been beset by questions about his durability, nothing takes away from the fact that on Saturday morning, he got bagels with his dad and on Saturday night, he almost evened up the World Series. The situation isn't lost on him.
"It's unbelievable,'' he said. "It's an unbelievable experience to be able to drive from the home that I grew up in and come to the ballpark.''