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Steven Matz sharp, picks up second straight win as Mets dominate Braves

Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets

Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets throws a second inning pitch against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on April 23, 2016 in Atlanta. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Cunningham

ATLANTA — Steven Matz was walking off the Turner Field mound after getting out of the third inning Saturday night when he had an animated conversation with his catcher, Travis d’Arnaud.

Then Matz continued talking in the dugout with pitching coach Dan Warthen. The laid-back Long Island lefty was fired up about something. He motioned with his hands, probably about a pitch that didn’t go where he wanted.

All this was after Matz successfully worked out of a jam. Imagine if he hadn’t!

Fortunately for the Mets, Matz didn’t have too much to be dismayed about. He allowed two runs in 6 1⁄3 innings, David Wright had a two-run double and Neil Walker hit his 100th career home run as the Mets beat the Braves, 8-2.

Matz (2-1, 5.40 ERA) said he was upset about an 0-and-2 pitch to Freddie Freeman that went astray in the third, when the Braves scored their first run but could have had more.

Before the Freeman at-bat, Matz hit Nick Markakis on the right hand with an 0-and-2 pitch with one out and the Mets leading 2-0. After a single by Daniel Castro, Matz got ahead of Freeman, only to see the Braves’ struggling first baseman line an RBI double into the rightfield corner to make it 2-1.

“It was just about pitch selection there,” Matz said. “I kind of had Freeman. He was laying off those pitches, those fastballs away. He wasn’t showing me anything on that and then I just went ahead and threw him a slider. I was just kind of just verifying that that was the wrong pitch there.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “There was a couple pitches he wanted back. The ball to Freeman. He tried to get it down and away and left it on the plate. But other than that, he pitched a very good game.”

Matz hunkered down after Freeman’s double. He got Adonis Garcia to line out to second and Tyler Flowers to hit a harmless fly to center to escape with the lead intact.

A half-inning later, Matz saw the lead expand to 4-1 when Wright lashed a two-out, two-run double just fair to rightfield. It was Wright’s first hit in 15 plate appearances with runners in scoring position in 2016.

“Huge for him,” Collins said of Wright, who will have off for Sunday’s road-trip finale. The Mets already have clinched a series win in all three stops.

“We’re getting into the flow of what the baseball season’s about . . . with all the other hoopla in the background,” Collins said. “Now it’s focusing on 2016 and not 2015.”

Matz got a chance to overcome his 0-and-2 blues in the fifth. After retiring the first two batters, he allowed singles to Castro and Freeman. Warthen visited the mound to discuss how to attack Garcia.

Here’s how Matz attacked: Sinker, 94, fouled. Sinker, 93, fouled. Sinker, 94, swinging strike three. Inning over. And a calm walk back to the dugout.

“That was what Dan came out and talked to me about,” Matz said. “He told me exactly what the game plan was for that guy and that was what we were able to execute.”

After Asdrubal Cabrera made it 5-1 in the seventh with a two-out RBI single, the Braves knocked out Matz in the bottom half on Markakis’ RBI hit. Matz allowed nine hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

The Mets tacked on three runs in the ninth against Ryan Weber. Walker hit his team-best seventh home run leading off. It was his sixth in his last eight games. Cabrera followed with his first homer as a Met. Juan Lagares, starting in place of the injured Yoenis Cespedes, added an RBI triple.


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