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Encouraging sign: Steven Matz finds a groove following hiatus

Steven Matz gave up only one run, three

Steven Matz gave up only one run, three hits and struck out five in six innings in the Mets' 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at Citi Field. Credit: Errol Anderson

The Mets lost again Saturday, because that is what they do these days. Make that five in a row after the Rockies prevailed, 2-0, at Citi Field on a night when the home team could not figure out Colorado starter Chad Bettis.

That is not good, but it was not all bad, because at a fragile moment for the fragile pitching rotation, Steven Matz showed up after a 10-day break and made everyone feel a little bit better.

With Matt Harvey having been banished and Jason Vargas trying to get his ERA under 16.00 and Zack Wheeler not inspiring confidence and Jacob deGrom’s tweaked elbow still to be tested under game conditions . . .

Let’s just say the Long Island lefty would appear to be an important person moving forward.

So this was darn promising. It did not start well, though.

In the first inning, the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado launched a drive that cleared the wall in dead centerfield and bounced off the Home Run Apple, which rises only for Mets homers.

At that point, manager Mickey Callaway was keeping an eye on the between-pitches routine that he has worked on with Matz. The idea is to take an extra moment to reset.

Matz said he fiddled with his hat to make sure he was doing so. It worked. He bounced back to allow only that run in six innings, striking out five and walking one in 88 pitches.

It was his longest outing since last July 3.

“I thought there was a little edge to him that I hadn’t seen before,” Callaway said. “There was a little something extra at the end of his release and it was very positive.”

Matz described it as “just believe you’re better than the batter in the box. That’s the kind of mindset I take.”

If he can keep this up and join Noah Syndergaard, who will start Sunday, and deGrom, who is to start Monday, maybe the Mets can hang around in the National League East and make this summer more interesting than the last one.

Before the game, Callaway, a positive fellow, said he is not concerned that his pitching rotation might not be as reliable as he had hoped.

“No, I’m not, because I think every rotation has that,” he said. “I’ve been around some of the better rotations, and they had the same up and downs. I think you have to wait until the end and see what happened.

“Are we always trying to make guys better and having conversations and working on the side? Absolutely. We’re not content with what we have. We’re never content, even when we’re going good. It’s more about just continually improving and trying to be the best we can be, and we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the season.”

Mets history is full of promising starting staffs, some of which panned out, most famously in 1969, and others that did not, most famously “Generation K” — Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson in the 1990s.

The current generation is more of a mixed bag.

It did get the Mets to a World Series, after all, one in which you may recall Harvey playing a prominent role, and perhaps eventually leading to his downfall. (But who knows, real ly? Most of us are not doctors, and they don’t know, either.)

It is too soon to give up on this era, post-Harvey. The Mets can contend. They have to hit better, obviously. Three shutouts in four games is problematic.

But Mets history is not built on hitters. It is built on pitchers. Matz has shown he can be a good one when healthy.

About three hours before the game, Callaway said: “His stuff is there. He can be an elite lefthanded pitcher if he has the right mentality to be able to overcome things that happen during a game and just continue to do the small things that he has to do to pitch well.”

On Saturday night, he did. Now the Mets just need five more months of that.

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