With all of the recent angst about Steven Matz’s bone spur, you half expected to hear a loud squeak from his elbow every time he threw a pitch against the Cubs on Thursday night at Citi Field.
Matz’s hinge was silent in his 5 1⁄3 innings, or at least it wasn’t heard over the groans of the restless crowd of 40,122. The Mets’ bats were silent, too, for most of the time Matz was in the game.
Matz left trailing 3-0. But the Mets, who had lost four in a row, rallied with three runs in the seventh and held on in the ninth for a much-needed 4-3 win over their 2015 NLCS foes.
The tying and go-ahead runs scored on a fielder’s choice and error on Neil Walker’s grounder to second. The win went to Erik Goeddel and the tightrope save to Jeurys Familia, who worked out of a second-and-third, none-out situation in the ninth by getting two strikeouts and a pop-up.
But none of it would have happened without a gritty performance by Matz, who will have to pitch through discomfort if he is to avoid surgery.
“We gave him some anti-inflammatories before the game started,” manager Terry Collins said. “He knows he can pitch through this.”
Matz, who threw 104 pitches and felt no pain afterward, said he felt “a little relief. But this is something I’ve been dealing with. I knew what to expect.”
General manager Sandy Alderson said before Thursday night’s game that the Mets’ improvements “are going to have to come from within.”
He was talking about not expecting the same kind of thunderbolt trade as last year’s deal for Yoenis Cespedes (who got the Mets on the board with a 466-foot home run into the third deck in the sixth).
Alderson also could have meant that the Mets need to stop looking over their shoulders and get it done with the talent they have in the room. Even if some of that talent — Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Curtis Granderson — is banged up.
Matz also had one of the most entertaining at-bats of the night.
The Mets were trailing 2-0 in the fifth when Matz came up with runners on first and second and one out.
Matz squared early to bunt. John Lackey, apparently taking offense for some reason, threw a fastball over the crouched-down Long Island Lefty’s head.
All of the residents of Stony Brook stood up and pushed back their chairs.
Matz took a few steps toward the mound and put his arms out as if to say, “Why?” Lackey took a few steps toward the plate to receive a new ball from his catcher. That was as far as either went.
“It just startled me a little bit,” Matz said. “You’re laying down a bunt and someone throws it behind your head. Definitely it would startle anyone, I think.”
But Matz, who is a pretty good hitter, was not bunting the rest of the at-bat. He put a charge into the crowd when he hit a 400-foot fly ball to the wall just left of center. Unfortunately for the Mets, centerfielder Albert Almora Jr. caught it with a hop, and the Mets did not score in the inning.
It was the first time Matz and the Mets faced the Cubs since Game 4 of the NLCS.
You remember the NLCS, right? The indelible image that was burned into this brain from the post-NLCS celebration was Jeff Wilpon pouring champagne from an oversized bottle down the gullet of an overjoyed David Wright.
It has been 10 days since Wilpon — who is rarely quoted — said he thought the team “might need to do something before” the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
They do need to do something. They need to look in the mirror. Or maybe look at Steven Matz.