Steven Matz pitched well enough to win most games, but most games he’s not facing Clayton Kershaw, the game’s best pitcher. One of the things I like most about Mets manager Terry Collins is the confidence he displays in his players. His decision to stick with Matz as his Game 4 starter – despite only six career starts – against Kershaw screamed he had the ultimate confidence.
The knee-jerk reaction is to say Matz spit the bit in tonight’s 3-1 loss to the Dodgers to send the NLDS back to Los Angeles for the deciding Game 5. Tell me, if I told you Matz would have given up three runs tonight, you would have grabbed it in a second.
“He pitched very good,” Collins said. “He was outstanding. If we get to the next round we have all the confidence in the world in him.”
That’s an awfully big “if.” It’s one thing to beat Kershaw at home. It’s another for them to encore that by beating Zack Greinke on the road. That will be a daunting task.
Collins could have gone with staff ace Jacob deGrom – he said that was on the table had the Mets lost Game 3 – but as it turned out, Matz was a good choice. Remember, this was his seventh Major League start and it was on a national stage. Next year, the Mets are counting on him for at least 30 starts.
Think of the pressure on Matz. He was pitching on national television with a chance to send the Mets to the next round. That’s a lot of pressure on the 24-year-old lefty, especially considering he hadn’t pitched since Sept. 24, that he was coming off an injury, and was trying to match Kershaw pitch for pitch.
It was one bad inning that did in Matz. Adrian Gonzalez drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a bloop single to center, then two more on Justin Turner’s two-run double. That’s two bad pitches he’d like to have back.
“To sum it up, a couple of mistakes hurt me,” Matz said. “I thought I threw the ball good. I just had a bad inning, but against a guy like Kershaw you have to put up zeroes.”
Sure there were nerves, regardless of his pre-game vow to “take the emotions out of it.” Collins had to sense Matz wasn’t snowing him when he looked him in the eye and was told he was ready.
And, even in defeat, Matz showed the baseball world he was ready for this moment.