Let's go Matz: NY-boy caps rebound weekend for Mets
It wasn't always pretty, but following a season-high 7-game losing streak which saw them dip below .500 for the first time since the first week of the season, the Mets will certainly take it.
After two brutally disappointing losses to the lowly Brewers late last week, the Mets rebounded with a 2-0 win on Thursday behind 8 more awesome innings from the consistently outstanding, reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom. Then Cincinnati came to town, and there was some reason for optimism: entering the series, the Mets were 26-11 at Citi Field (compared to just 11-26 on the road, second-worst in the league). That fact, combined with the excitement behind a series where Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz were scheduled starters, made me cautiously optimistic. The pitching may be great, but the team still can't score. So maybe it doesn't matter.
Making a name for himself
Syndergaard pitched Friday night and gave the best start of his young career, getting removed after 8 innings of 1-run baseball, throwing just 89 pitches. Jeurys Familia came in to finish the job and did. I applaud manager Terry Collins' decision to remove Syndergaard after the 8th despite his relatively low pitch count. Pitching Familia in the 9th gave the Mets the best chance to win, and while the prospect of a Syndergaard complete game was exciting, the Mets needed the win. And they got it, despite scoring just two runs by way of a lead-off homerun by red hot Curtis Granderson and an RBI walk by Lucas Duda. The ugly way.
Again, though, the Mets would take it any way they could get it. Suddenly, they had won two in a row.
Smoking hot: Granderson with another great weekend
After Granderson hit another solo homer in Saturday's game and then dropped a fly ball that would eventually lead to a tying run for the Reds, the game was suspended for rain. It was an uneventful, quiet performance from Harvey, who allowed one run through 6 innings, striking out just three.
So, that meant a double-ticket day for Sunday. Saturday's game, which was tied 1-1 through six, was to be finished, followed by the series finale and the much-anticipated debut of Steven Matz. The end of the first game took longer than expected thanks to some Gold Glove outfield play by Skip Schumacher of the Reds and the Mets' Juan Lagares, and eventually finished when Duda hit a high ground ball with the bases loaded in the 13th. A really good job by the Mets bullpen, pitching 7 scoreless innings to give the Mets the first two games of the series. It was another win, but again, the team scored just two runs.
Man of the Hour: Matz takes control
And then it was on to the business of the weekend. Matz's debut has been anticipated for some two years now, and Sunday was the day. It started poorly, as he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, but he settled down in a big way. The Long Island-born Matz was never fazed and had pretty much the best debut imaginable, pitching 7.2 innings and allowing just 2 runs. He was really dominant at stretches and gave us every reason to be excited about his long-term prospects.
But what's so awesome about the young pitchers in the organizations right now - Matz, Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and the injured Zach Wheeler is that they can hit. All of them. Matz went 3-3 yesterday with 4 RBIs. That won't happen often, obviously, but it does say something. All of these guys can be seen knocking in runs and executing take-out slides and sacrifice bunts better than most of the everyday lineup; they're ball players.
There are two main truths to be taken from this weekend.
First, the good:
This was a great weekend. The team pitched like we know they can, and there is really no way to escape the pitching this team has. Veteran Jon Niese is almost sure to be traded in the coming weeks, leaving the rotation for the rest of the season as Bartolo Colon, Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz. There is no escaping the fury of this rotation; with Dillon Gee playing AAA-ball like he ought to be, there is no weakness. The veteran Colon anchors a rotation that is piping with young talent and is one of the most exciting in the league. Any three game series will see at least two young aces, any and all of whom are capable of throwing a gem at any time. With Matz finally in the rotation, it's OK to be legitimately excited. This is the crop of pitching talent that the team has been readying for the past five years, and they're all finally here.
Now, the honest:
The team still can't hit. Granderson is doing it all by himself, and he's still hitting leadoff; I can't remember the last time he hit a home run with a runner on base, and there just isn't anything he can do about that. He's also far from a sure bet to continue his hot streak. There's something wrong with Lucas Duda. Michael Cuddyer continues to struggle; the light-hitting Ruben Tejada isn't turning any heads. The Tuesday return of Daniel Murphy will be a big help, but the reality remains: in the four-game winning streak, the team scored 2 runs three times. The fourth game saw them score seven, thanks to four RBIs by the pitcher.
The young pitching is only going to grow frustrated and disgruntled if the lineup continues as it has, and that's a real concern. The team needs to do everything in its power to up the hitting and keep these young aces happy; if they don't, this super-star rotation could disband more quickly than anyone is willing to admit.