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Steven Matz can't get out of fifth in 6-2 loss to Phillies

Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz against the Philadelphia

Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz against the Philadelphia Phillies, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Chris Szagola

PHILADELPHIA — For six seasons, Steven Matz has teased and tantalized, dominated and imploded, leaving the Mets to wonder who he really is as a pitcher.

Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, he did all of the above — in less than two hours.

The Mets lost to the Phillies, 6-2, after Matz gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Through five starts, coming up on half of a starter’s approximately 12-game pandemic-shortened season, he already has allowed 23 runs in 23 innings, making for an (im)perfect 9.00 ERA. He also has a 1.57 WHIP.

“It’s really frustrating,” Matz said. “It’s really, really frustrating for me. So, you know, I’m just — I don’t know. I’m trying to stay positive. Trying to take the positives out of it. I just gotta execute better. I gotta give the team a better chance to win. It’s unacceptable.”

Manager Luis Rojas said he will talk to the pitching coaches and Matz to “see what’s best for Matzy and what adjustments he can make when he gets the ball again.”

“It’s a tough outing for him,” Rojas said. “He’s had a few of those.”

Asked if a demotion to the bullpen is an option — not that the Mets have other good rotation choices — Rojas said: “I mean, right now, we just finished this game. It was a tough game for Matzy. That’s something that we really don’t want to get into or start talking about right now.”

Matz offered the Mets (9-13) an encouraging beginning, cruising for four innings. He allowed one run, on Jean Segura’s homer, and struck out five. As he walked off the mound at the end of that stretch, following a lineout from Segura to work around a leadoff walk, he had thrown only 56 pitches.

Then the fifth inning happened. The Phillies (7-9) scored five runs as Matz recorded one out, throwing 28 pitches before Jeurys Familia relieved him.

That nightmare began in the most innocuous of ways: a check-swing grounder from Didi Gregorius. It turned into a single when Gregorius beat the throw from Amed Rosario — the only player on the left side of the infield, due to a  defensive shift — and it snowballed on Matz from there.

“Executed a pitch on [1]-and-2,” Matz said. “Single.”

Phil Gosselin singled. Alec Bohm walked, loading the bases. Scott Kingery lined out to right. Andrew McCutchen also walked, forcing in a run. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner visited the mound. On the very next pitch, Rhys Hoskins delivered the big blow, a three-run double to right-centerfield.

“I made a bad pitch to Hoskins,” Matz said of a fastball on the outer edge of the plate.

Bryce Harper followed with his own RBI double, scorched a shot off the rightfield wall at 115 mph. That ended Matz’s mess.

This marked the third consecutive disaster of a start for Matz, who impressed in camp and began the season with two strong outings.

“It’s very difficult when you have results like this a few outings in a row,” Matz said. “In your head you’re like, ‘I gotta change something. Something’s gotta be different.’ ”

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia’s No. 1 starter, doesn’t need to change a thing. He struck out eight across seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks.

Early on, Nola appeared to be the one who was struggling. The Mets made him throw 26 pitches in the first inning — ending with Pete Alonso striking out swinging, stranding two runners in scoring position — and 56 pitches through the third.

But he settled in from there, retiring his final 13 batters. “He seemed to be tough to hit against,” Rojas said. “It almost looked like everything we took was called [a strike] and everything we swung at was out of the zone. That’s the kind of pitcher he is.”

Dominic Smith helped the Mets avoid the shutout with a two-run homer in the ninth. He has gone deep in four consecutive games and leads the Mets in homers (six) and RBIs (16).

How locked in does he feel?

“I still feel I need some areas to improve,” Smith said, bemoaning his third-inning strikeout with two runners on. “There’s so many at-bats when I have runners in scoring position where, especially being in the middle of the lineup, I need to be able to get that job done.”

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