Mets rookie LHP Steven Matz held the Dodgers to two runs, six hits and a walk in six innings during his New York Mets' 4-2 win Monday night at Dodgers Stadium.
Matz (5-1) left runners stranded in scoring position in the first, third and fourth innings. The two runs he allowed came on a two-run home run by Trayce Thompson in the fourth inning.
Since allowing seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in his season debut, Matz is 5-0 in his last five starts with a 1.09 ERA, which trails only Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in the National League since April 17.
"He didn't have the command tonight he had his last two starts, but it's all been the fact that he's throwing strikes," manager Terry Collins said after the game. "You go back to the first start, where he really struggled, he didn't have command of his fastball, but stayed with his fastball. Now, you don't know what's coming. He uses his changeup. He'll throw a slider. He'll use his curveball. And tonight, he didn't have his curveball working, yet he tried to throw a few. That's in the hitter's head that this guy's got a breaking ball that he'll throw. I just think it keeps everybody off-balance."
In 12 career regular-season starts, Matz, 24, is 9-1 with a 2.56 ERA, while striking out 69 batters in 70 innings. He also has six hits and six RBIs as a hitter after delivering an RBI double in the sixth inning Monday to give his team a two-run lead.
"Today was one of those days where I kind of had to grind a little bit," Matz said about his start Monday. "I didn't have my best stuff out there, but I was still able to throw all of my pitches and mix up pitches, which helped me out."
Matz pitched two different games, it seemed like. The first time through LA's order, in an effort to shake if not having his best stuff, he clearly tried to pitch to contact, and go for ground balls -- and it worked. Then, the next time through, he started using all of his pitches. Though he wasn't as sharp as usual, he moved the ball around the zone and the Dodgers guessed incorrectly. The ball to Thompson was left up in the strike zone and deserved to be clobbered. Other than that, he kept everyone on their toes. He and catcher Kevin Plawecki navigated themselves through what could have otherwise been a rough start.
It's easy to say Collins was right to pull Matz after the sixth inning given how well the bullpen pitched. But it was the right moment at that time anyway. Matz didn't cruise through the game; he labored with 98 stressful pitches. He tossed at least 100 pitches in each of his previous two starts as well. Sure, he looked strong in his last inning, but, it's going to be Matz's first full year in the big leagues, so I have no problem with Collins pulling him on a high note, feeling good about a tricky outing and giving the ball to his relievers.