When Steven Matz blazed a 95-mph fastball past Giancarlo Stanton for a strikeout to end the first inning Monday night, visions of a stellar season debut for the Long Island lefty must have danced in the minds of Mets fans from Orient Point to Floral Park.
Matz’s final pitch also was to Stanton. It was an 84-mph changeup that the Marlins slugger crushed over the left-centerfield wall for a two-run home run to cap a seven-run second inning for Miami in its 10-3 victory at Citi Field.
Matz was gone after 59 pitches in 1 2⁄3 innings. He allowed seven runs, six hits and two walks, with that lone strikeout. His ERA is 37.80. At least there’s nowhere to go but up.
“We know he’s a lot better than that,” manager Terry Collins said.
The good news for the 2-4 Mets, losers of three in a row: They have their ace on the mound Tuesday night.
Six games into the season, the only young Mets starter on top of his game right now is Thor, who will face Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a delicious early-season matchup.
Syndergaard’s first start, in Kansas City last Tuesday, was as impressive an outing as one could have. His high-90s heat and mid-90s slider had tongues wagging about who really has the best stuff among the Mets’ young guns. At the moment, it’s no contest.
Syndergaard also seems to have the personality of a stopper. He didn’t back down from the Royals in the World Series or in the rematch last week, when he allowed three hits and one walk and struck out nine in six shutout innings in a hostile- to-him Middle America.
Think how far the 23-year-old has come. The kid who had his lunch thrown into the trash by Bobby Parnell in spring training in 2015 because he committed the baseball sin of eating in the clubhouse during an intrasquad scrimmage is now The Guy You Want on the Mound if you’re a Mets fan.
It’s OK, you can admit it. Even if it hurts Matt Harvey’s feelings.
Harvey, after a very well-publicized health scare late in spring training, is 0-2 with a 4.63 ERA and has allowed 14 hits in 11 2⁄3 innings with just five strikeouts.
That Harvey is 25-20 lifetime at age 27 is one of the weird anomalies in baseball statistics. Yes, he has pitched much better than that, and yes, wins are as much a team stat as anything. But considering all that has been written and said about the brooding Dark Knight and how he fancies himself, you’d think the order for the Hall of Fame plaque already was on the way to the engraver.
Among the other young arms, Jacob deGrom is down with a lat strain amid questions about his reduced velocity. Matz, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days, has to wait until Sunday for his next start in Cleveland. He will have much better days, but it’s hard to be sharp off nine days’ rest.
“I’ve been pitching since I’m 8 years old,” Matz said. “So it’s no excuse.”
Which is why Syndergaard can vault to the head of the class Tuesday night. It also would be nice for the Mets to get a win before Collins chews his hat. The manager has been on a slow boil since the sports car and horse shenanigans in spring training, as if he sensed early that this Mets team still might be hung over from last season’s success.
A lot of smart people pointed out that in 2015, the Mets started 2-3 and then ran off an 11-game winning streak. Monday night was a reminder that this is not 2015, and that nobody is going to hand the Mets a return trip to the World Series.