Redemption will have to wait for Steven Matz.
Matz appeared lost at sea in his debut on Sunday, as he struggled to find the plate in the Mets first loss of the season. It was an outing where Matz hoped to correct course from a forgettable 2017, but instead he saw his pitching woes continue.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Matz be good, or frankly, even the average. He was stellar when he debuted, but since May of 2016, he’s posted a putrid 5.07 ERA over 143.2 innings pitched. He's also been injury-plagued, having both his 2016 and 2017 campaigns cut short. Rightfully so, Matz’s role on the pitching staff was a big question mark heading into 2018, as some even thought he should have been traded. But the front office held tight, and were optimistic that new skipper Mickey Callaway could help him regain his form. And while he did show flashes of improvement this past spring, Sunday’s start was evidence that Matz has yet to find himself.
His command was way off, especially when locating his fastball. Matz struggled to keep his pitches down all afternoon, which proved to be costly. He gave up two solo HRs at the expense of two high fastballs, and surrendered an RBI double on a breaking ball that sat over the plate. He constantly found himself behind in counts, causing him to hurl an alarming 89 pitches in only four innings of work, including 26 in the first and 17 in the fourth.
Going deeper than stats, Matz appeared embattled with his confidence, which Mickey pointed out at the post-game presser. This presents an interesting explanation for Matz’s struggles, as confidence issues may be affecting his psyche. Aside from overall team expectations, there’s a lot of pressure for him to regain his 2015 form. If the poor outings continue, the uncertainty around his future becomes greater. He knows this, and that has to be clouding his ability to just go out and pitch. It’s early in the season, but this is a situation to monitor.
It’s safe to say that three earned runs through four innings of work wasn’t how Matz envisioned his 2018 debut. And while it’s only one start, his performance raised plenty of red flags for the future. He’ll get opportunities to redeem himself, but if he can’t shake the demons, he may find himself in Las Vegas before the All Star break.
Not only did it seal the victory, Yoenis Céspedes' monster grand slam taught Mets fans a lesson worth remembering this season: Don't panic over a couple of losses. Not with this team.