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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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From Mattrocious to Matznificent

We now interrupt our collective, continuing Matt Harvey freakout to note Steven Matz is posting one of the best pitching seasons on the planet.

Yes, Steven Matz. Pay attention to him. Attention must be paid. Ought to be, at any rate.

I could see where you’d overlook him. Matz isn’t the most interesting member of the Met pitching staff. Matz isn’t even the most interesting member of his family. He’s surely no Grandpa Bert in the gesticulation department. Steven Matz may not even be as fascinating as the sandwich that’s named for Steven Matz. I haven’t had the sandwich, but it existed before Matz did in most of our consciousnesses, and I still find that fascinating.

None of this is intended to label Matz dull or boring. His demeanor is calming, his performance electric. We will not worry whether he speaks to the media after his starts. He will, but we won’t care what he has to say. He can leave colorful to his rotationmates.

Here’s what spoke volumes Wednesday afternoon in Washington: eight innings pitched, four hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, sixteen batters up and sixteen batters down during one expansive stretch of excellence and no runs allowed at all en route to a 2-0 victory against the first-place (by only half-a-game) archrival Nationals. Matz won his seventh consecutive start, the Mets took the series and, for a day or two, we can forget about Harvey’s travails.

Instead, we can dwell on Matz’s 7-1 record and 2.34 ERA that includes his awful first 2016 outing, one that feels as long ago as the 2013 prime of the Dark Knight. I’d look up how good Steven’s stats would be minus that uncharacteristic April drubbing, but really, how much better than 7-1, 2.34 ERA does a pitcher have to be to attract and maintain our notice?

(I just checked: 7-0, 1.13  ERA. Sweet Jerry Moses!)

We treat Harvey’s shortfalls as breaking news, yet Matz we view as less dog bites man than dog shuffles peaceably alongside man as they wait quietly at the light and cross at the green, not in between. It’s as if a pitcher who never loses is consigned to background noise. Really, Matz transcends “never loses”. In going 7-for-7, he matched a Met mark last mounted by Steve Trachsel in 2006. Trachsel in 2006 was no great shakes. He was luxuriously supported by a high-octane offense while pitching to a 4.43 ERA in his seven straight winning starts. He was OK, but, y’know…he was Steve Trachsel.

As Mets named Steven go, we’ve got the advanced model right here, right now in our star lefty. The latest deluxe feature to be added to the total Matz package is endurance. He’d never gone eight full innings before. To get there at Nationals Park, he had to go through a pinch-hitter named Bryce Harper. There were two out and one on in the eighth. Who were ya gonna call? Jerry Blevins? Yeah, maybe, but why not discern how much mettle the Met from Long Island is packing?

We did. Matz grounded Harper to Matt Reynolds at short and got out of the eighth. Jeurys Familia came on in the ninth, generated a few heebie-jeebies by surrendering back-to-back singles to start the inning, but then settled down to create his own slice of team history: 32 consecutive regular-season save opportunities successfully converted since the last instance he blew one (a rainy afternoon game against the Padres, it is vaguely recalled).

Other than those rare instances where a pitcher does all the hitting and all the hitting — Matz in his debut against the Reds, for example — it takes a village of Mets to raise a W. Familia contributed in Washington. So did David Wright with a first-inning solo homer off Tanner Roark. So did Reynolds, stepping in for a back-spasming Asdrubal Cabrera (the non-Cespedes, non-pitching MVP of this club to date) and collecting his first big league hit. Rene Rivera, as stealth an off-season acquisition as could be secretly imagined, delivered an enormous insurance run with his bat and cut down a potential threat with his gun for an arm when he threw out Michael Taylor trying to steal second in the third. Daniel Murphy also chipped in with a key error…oh wait, he’s with the other guys now, but he did help the Mets win.

I wouldn’t want to slight any Met or ex-Met who aided the greater good Wednesday, but I also don’t want to deflect too much of the spotlight from Matz, who deserves to bask in the glow of some serious accomplishments. Musslessly, fusslessly, professionally, he is consistently pitching at a level unattained by any of his rotationmates this season. Never mind the Dark Knight. Not even Thor the Norse God has unfurled quite the kind of roll the pride of Suffolk County is on.

Mind you, the Mets are in a race with the Nationals, not a contest with each other. We want every one of our golden boys to go to the mound every fifth day and never lose (including the onetime pacesetter who’s sort of out of fashion of late). But since one Met pitcher is living up to that description more than any other, let’s shove him front and center for a spell. For a refreshing change, let’s not be about Harvey who isn’t getting it done. Let’s be about Matz who is barely getting touched.

39 comments to From Mattrocious to Matznificent

  • Lenny65

    Nice series (Harvey aside), lost in the kerfluffle is the fact that a disoriented and short-handed Mets team still snagged two of three from Washington which may not mean a lot now but might eventually mean plenty. Getting stomped by the Nats this week would have been a nightmare and started all sorts of silly talk. This Matz kid is packing some serious stuff plus he’s already battle-tested too. The way he shook off that horrible start says a lot too IMO.

  • Eric

    Wheeler is slated to return to the rotation in the beginning of July: http://m.mlb.com/news/article/179808126/mets-zack-wheeler-throws-off-mound

    Can, should the Mets give Harvey until Wheeler’s return to find his game at the major league level?

    I had most looked forward to this season 4 aces, maybe 5 aces if Wheeler made a Harvey-like comeback, each pitching better than the last and handing off the lead in the Cy Young race every turn of the rotation. At least Syndergaard and Matz are delivering on that promise. deGrom is a grinder on the mound. Hopefully, his 2015 all-star game or, at least, NLDS game 1 form bounces back soon.

    Good to see Wright coming up with big hits. Maybe, as Collins has talked about, Wright’s game is raising with the temperature.

    Familia’s maturation as a closer is comforting. This time last season, there’s an even chance that 2 hits to start the 9th inning in a close game would have rattled him and he would have lost control. Now, he stays cool and bears down.

    Rivera’s defense has been refreshing. A catcher with a gun is a safety blanket. The pitchers have regularly commented that he calls a good game, too. The RBI was a bonus. Defense up the middle is fundamental.

    Too many back injuries. I hope Cabrera is okay; he’s been valuable. I wonder if Duda’s back injury is related to his back injury from last season. Reynolds with a clutch sac bunt, his 1st hit, and looks okay in the field. Maybe he’ll stick.

    Offense still struggling. I hope a crash course at 1st base is part of d’Arnaud’s rehab.

  • Dave

    This team, with its presumed ace pitching like an in-over-his-head call-up from Double-A and all the related drama, a roster with more aching backs than a bus to Atlantic City, Eric Campbell as the temporary everyday 1Bman, and a bench that includes Matt Reynolds, Alejandro DeAza and his one RBI, and whoever Ty Kelly is, is only a half game out of first place after letting Ted Williams walk as a free agent. So far, pretty good, and if a guy here and there gets his act together, and Alderson makes a move or two a la Uribe/Johnson, we’re in good shape.

    Matz is still a rookie. ROY starter 2 of the last 3 years perhaps? Imagine the Mets with a guy who is quietly spectacular.

    • Eric

      “presumed ace pitching like an in-over-his-head call-up from Double-A” – when Matt Harvey turned into Rafael Montero.

      The current roster does look and play like a mix of last season’s pre- (RISP LOB) and post-trades (HRs) rosters.

      Depth is Daniel Murphy backing up at 3B and 1B along with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson filling out the infield, Wright returning, plus the magic of Wilmer’s tears.

      As far as picking up a Uribe/Johnson type, hopefully, Flores picks up his play. Otherwise, I think that move is calling up Dilson Herrera to give Collins the option of shifting Walker to 1B or 3B as needed. Herrera’s inexperience should be mitigated with Cabrera at SS, assuming the back trouble isn’t a sign that Cabrera is wearing out already. I also hope d’Arnaud is given a crash course at 1B, if not also 3B, while on his rehab assignment.

      • Dave

        Eric – good analogy, Harvey has looked like Montero. As for Wilmer, while there’s no obvious everyday role for him, I’m not convinced that he can be an effective bat off the bench/utility guy at this stage of his career. I prefer a veteran in that job. Wilmer’s raw skill is there, but while last year’s 16 HR’s were nice, it was obvious at times that he was still in his learning curve and not always moving through it rapidly. And we have seen failed attempts in the past to just turn a guy into a 1Bman. Flores and d’Arnaud are both flawed at the positions they’re most accustomed to, I worry that watching either of them trying to play first could be cringe-worthy.

        • Eric

          I think Cabrera and Walker are the Uribe/Johnson type veteran pick-ups for this season, and if needed, they’ll shift around the infield. That being said, if they’re filling the Uribe/Johnson space, that means the Murphy gap is unfilled.

          Flores has already played every infield position, besides of course P and C, this season. I don’t recall that he looked out of sorts at 1B, at least any more out of sorts than Murphy or Johnson at 1B last season. I’m more concerned about Flores’s bat than his glove.

          d’Arnaud’s shoulder injury makes his already dubious outlook as a catcher even more dubious. Converting d’Arnaud would fill the Murphy gap in the sense of finding a place on the field for him and living with any shortcoming with his glove to keep his bat in the line-up. If d’Arnaud can’t convert to another position that hopefully allows him to stay healthy enough to hit up to his potential, I don’t see him long for the major leagues.

  • 9th string catcher

    2 outta 3. Great win against a quietly dominating pitcher in Roark. On a separate subject, Does Harvey’s blood clot have anything to do with the slow start?

    • Eric

      Every theory is on the table since the Mets and Harvey don’t seem to know why he’s struggling like Parnell’s return from TJ surgery despite Harvey’s strong comeback last year.

  • Mikey

    that win was so incredibly satisfying. So when we moved my office from a third bedroom into the den, and then bought a 65 inch TV for the office/den, I had visions of days like yesterday. I’m working, yet have the game on the big screen. the downside is when it’s a game against the Nats like this, how was I to get any work done? no matter, I couldn’t bear to turn it off and follow the game online. and the result was exhilarating, though at times terrifying. but these are the ones we look back on and say “what a great effing game that was!”

    has anyone given thought to the fact Terry Collins might pick Steven Matz for the All-Star team? we’re still a ways out until mid July, but Stevie keeps this up, why not?

    and I’m blown away by the fact we took 2 of 3 (including a Colon game) in DC with half a triple A lineup.

    and when Familia gave up those two hits, I was mostly afraid of losing the game, but also afraid of the game going into extras, something my nerves and my workload were not in favor of.

    LGM!

    • Rochester John

      If the All Star game were next week, the Mets would be well represented with Matz, Syndergaard, Familia and Cespedes. It’s nice that TC has input this year. I’m still fuming over Familia’s snub last year.

      • Eric

        Familia is my favorite current Met. He’s every bit an ace coming out of the bullpen as the starters. Like I said, his maturation as a closer is comforting, and his stuff is as good as there is on a pitching staff replete with elite stuff.

  • Martin Dickson

    Great result against the Nats, and anytime a series win occurs against them is a good one. Recently heard a Baseball Tonight podcast where an expert was worried and concerned about the Mets the pitching not good enough, specifically Harvey and the hitters going missing, they do spend some time banging on about how good the Cubs, Nats and Giants are. How about giving credit where credit is due.
    Sure there have been some off days but this is a competitive baseball team still fighting and winning despot injuries and poor form of key pieces. Lay off David Wright still performing at the highest level despite Spinal Stenosis, man most of us would be done on sick leave! He’s still hitting home runsand getting outs and committed. Looking forward to seeing the series against the Dodgers hoping Syndagaard goes against Kershaw. Cheers from Down Under Let’s Go Mets Martin

  • Rob E.

    I’m not ready to bury Matt Harvey. This is still a short sample. Here are two other big names that have struggled just as much: Dallas Keuchel and Chris Archer. These valleys happen, even for very good pitchers (and even for reigning Cy Young winners). Harvey is still striking out 7.5/9 and walking >3/9. All of this is attributable to giving up too many hits. That is BAD, of course, but when a guy is still striking out people and not walking people, the peripherals don’t support anything more than bad command and/or bad luck (which his BABIP supports).

    If you want to call it fatigue, fine…this can be a symptom of fatigue (especially considering that he hits the wall the second or third time through the order). But guys who are hurt don’t K 7.5/9 while walking >3/9, and guys who SUCK don’t strike out 7.5/9 while walking >3. That K/BB rate is the starting point for very good pitchers. The real Matt Harvey is still in there somewhere. Ride the lightning a little longer and our missing ace will show up at some point. If Matt Harvey was a stock, I’m buying low right now.

  • Gil

    Dusty Baker on Matz:

    “Sometimes you just get dominated.”

    He isn’t 6’6 with long hair golden locks, he doesn’t find himself on the big screen at MSG with supermodels, nobody has deemed him ‘slim sexy” and, to date, he isn’t featured in GEICO ads. He simply walks softly and quiets the big sticks. He’s a real ballplayer.

    Disclaimer: I still have and always will have a soft spot for Murph. But man… it was nice to see the OTHER 2nd baseman making a mess of a double play ball that my softball beer league second baseman could have turned singlehandedly. (no offense, Derek Zarelli)

    • Eric

      The highlight of the 2015 Mets is Daniel Murphy stealing 3B in the inimitable Murphy style in NLDS Game 5.

      Matz was sent over from central casting for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

  • Surly Duff

    Matt Harvey is in good company.

    He has given up 73 hits, tied for the most in baseball, but tied with the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

    And here’s two lines from the last couple of days:

    5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 K, 2 BB

    5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 4 K, 1 BB

    One was Harvey in DC. The other was the reigning NL Cy Young winner.

    All three will return to form.

    • Eric

      I agree that it’s very premature to give up on Harvey.

      The criticism seems amplified by peripheral stuff rather than baseball stuff.

      Plus Harvey’s struggle looks worse when deGrom is grinding through his starts despite a similar drop-off in stuff, Syndergaard and Matz are shining, and the Mets offense is down in a close division race so that they’re more dependent on pitching.

    • Greg Mitchell

      Bad move citing Keuchel. It was predicted that he too would falter this year–after throwing a whopping 240 innings last year including playoffs shattering his former high by 40.

  • Tim H

    All I know is that Steven Matz’s grandfather, Bert Moller, must have a spot on the NL All-Star roster!

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v207760683/cinnym-matzs-grandpa-relives-historic-debut

  • Steve D

    Syndergaard & Matz = Aces of the NYM pitching staff 1A & 1B.

  • eric1973

    With 1986 Weekend almost upon us, the thought occurs:

    Was everyone going gaga in 1999 over the 30th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets of 1969?

    That was a pretty good feel-good story, IMO.

    I believe Old-Timer’s Day may have been gone by 1999, so does anyone remember if anything was done?

    • There was a 30th anniversary celebration at Shea, prior to the Mets-Giants game, Sunday, May 2, 1999. It started before noon, so the crowd was rather thin. It was a rather low-key affair, but Tom Seaver was in the middle of it, which was significant since that it was his first year back with the organization after a long, uncomfortable estrangement. They even played a game, ’69 Mets versus ’69 opponents, including Felix Millan and Rusty Staub in their pre-1972 roles. I recall Howie Rose doing play-by-play on field; I think it was the first time he was handed the MC role for a gathering of this nature.

      They didn’t call it Old Timers Day, but it was essentially the last one they ever had. The next year they did 10 Greatest Moments, which was much better choreographed, and thereafter, whenever they did a milestone assemblage/reunion, they put some thought into it. They did, however, hand out a great premium, VHS copies of the 1969 highlight film, “Look Who’s No. 1”.

      1999 Mets won that day in 1969-fashion, with a Rickey Henderson eighth-inning windblown pop fly aiding them immensely and Matt Franco coming around to score from first to break a scoreless tie. The Mets won 2-0.

  • otb

    I thought Matz looked like he had enough left in the tank to pitch the 9th. A complete game shutout would have been nice. I know the book says use the closer in a save situation, and Terry was burned in Game 5 last year, but still …

    Then I had a feeling of impending doom when the Nats led off the 9th with two hits off Familia. That feeling turned out to be premature, thank goodness.

    Interesting that most of the talk after yesterday’s game, even after Matz’s splendid performance, was still about Harvey. Maybe he (Harvey) just needs to have the spotlight dimmed a bit to allow him to work his slump, or whatever it is, out in relative calm. Not bloody likely though, is it?

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Just thought I’d throw in that I went to the Binghamton Mets game last night. First time there. Sparse crowd (today is Camp Day, apparently almost sold out), but I did see Wilmer Flores play an inconsequential First Base, bat leadoff, and go 0 for 5.

    They got clobbered by the Richmond Flying Squirrels (yes that’s their name) 11-2.

    Speaking of Flying Squirrels, the buzz in Binghamton is that the team is lookimng to change their name to something more, er, hip?? One of the names in the Finalists is, for example, the Stud Muffins. Yikes.

    We went to a couple of Downtown Brewpubs after the game, and one of the beer server gals knew a lot about the team, even to the extent that she knew they used to be called The Triplets (I’m not sure I even ever knew that). Her suggestion was to call the team The Meths, in honor of the neighborhood the Stadium is in. It IS dicey, we walked there & back from Downtown.

    Too bad there’s no write-in votes allowed. I do like The Meths.

    https://secure.milb.com/tickets/form.jsp?formid=team_name_vote&formcode=form&sid=t505&section=team1

  • eric1973

    Great info, Thanks, Greg. I doubt it was even televised, as they stopped putting them on TV. Perhaps it was called Upper Deck Legends, or something like that, as the card company was sponsoring ‘Old Timer’s Days’ around the country at around that time.

    I was at Shea in 2003 for the 30th Anniversary of the 1973 team. Tug McGraw was suffering from brain cancer at the time, and it was unknown if he would be able to attend. As I recall, he was driven in from the bullpen in the old-style relief pitcher’s car that was shaped like a baseball cap. He was helped to the mound, perhaps with the aid of a cane, and I gotta tell ya, there was not a dry eye in the house, as he threw out the first ball.

    Tug died 6 months later.

    • Dennis

      Funny…..I was at the 20th anniversary of the 73 team in 1993 at Shea. The old timers game was A’s – Mets (obviously). They have the Sportschannel telecast on YouTube. That game was better than the real one that night…..3-0 loss to the Philies.

      • I was at the 1993 game, too. No Seaver, no Mays, no Yogi. No Reggie for that matter. A little light on Heroes of Baseball, but we cheered those who did show.

        Old Timers Day became Equitable-sponsored affairs, then Upper Deck, then they were left to fend for themselves. I miss the classic affairs of yore, but am quite happy they’re going relatively all out for this weekend.

  • Lenny65

    So who’s listening to Game Six tonite? To this day the most amazing Mets win ever. I didn’t really understand “tension” until Mookie started fouling off pitches with two strikes. And even though they needed to come back in Game Seven, there was never any doubt whatsoever.

    • Stan

      Damn them for not streaming the game. 710 AM gets stepped all over here in the Southeast.

    • Had a great time listening and tweeting in real time, albeit 30 years removed. Main takeaways: 1) Damn, we came close to losing; 2) Games moved much faster back then, even long ones; 3) Murph will always be the Voice of the Mets.

      • Lenny65

        I cannot even describe the depths of sorrow as the top of the tenth ended. The most epic baseball season ever about to be rendered meaningless. Then two quick outs, it was unbearable. After some of the most stomach churning playoff games imaginable they found a way to top them all in true Mets style.

        • Eric

          On the spot, Murphy said to the effect that NLCS game 6 topped WS game 6 in terms of in-game drama, but WS game 6 was more significant.

    • Eric

      I listened. A pleasure listening to Bob Murphy again. Thorne was okay, but I think the Rose-Lewin chemistry is better. Great program on WOR last night with the replay and the interviews.

      The unsung close plays were striking. If one of them, eg, Strawberry’s steal where Gedman’s throw beat him but Barrett dropped the ball on the tag, had tilted towards the Red Sox, the Mets lose the game. If I recall correctly, only the Ray Knight throwing error helped the Red Sox.

      I was also reminded that Ray Knight was on 2nd base when he scored the winning run. If Buckner fields the ball, he may not have beaten Wilson to 1st base, but at least he would have kept the winning run at 3rd base. Sisk was warming up in the bullpen, and with the way that Red Sox team could hit, the momentum gained in the bottom of the 10th could have dried up fast.

  • Daniel Hall

    So the Metsies are going to face a teenager tonight in Julio Urias. I will pre-sleep to catch this one, but somehow I feel like his 12-year old face will be all over MLB.com tomorrow. “Youngest pitcher to throw a no-hitter!” – Excuse me, gotta catch my train to Panic City.

    • Big prospect, and a lefty. So that’s good news.

      OTOH, he has to face a pretty decent team in a hostile (Utleyfied) environment.

      • Rochester John

        I know that we ignored our shot at Utley in L.A. I like to think that we wanted to wait until we got him at home. So here’s to deGrom throwing high and tight to put him on his ass tonight. And for Thor to put one in his ribs tomorrow to finish the job.

  • Jacobs27

    Matz how it’s done.