If the Mets’ interim No. 2 starter can pitch like he did last week, they might just have one less thing to worry about.
Steven Matz gets the ball for his second start of the season at Citi Field against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night looking to build off his stellar season debut.
With plenty to prove to an organization that has been waiting for him to turn a corner, Matz went six innings against the Atlanta Braves on Jul. 26, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out seven.
That’s no easy feat, especially when following Jacob deGrom’s Opening-Day performance in which he shut Atlanta out over five innings. But Matz mowed through the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman with relative ease.
The performance lived up to the hype created by first-year coach Luis Rojas and deGrom during summer camp, who both admitted Matz looked as good as he ever has.
Even first-year pitching coach Jeremy Hefner chimed in on the singing of Matz’s praises.
“He’s nasty, he has some really good stuff. I’m anxious to see him [Thursday],” Hefner said. “The sky’s the limit with this guy.”
That may be the case, but it’s also worth noting that Matz has been dominant as of late at Citi Field — even during last season’s inconsistent campaign.
In 15 starts in Queens last year, Matz posted a 2.31 ERA with 91 strikeouts while allowing a .670 OPS.
On the road — also in 15 starts — his numbers were nowhere near that productive at a 6.62 ERA with 61 strikeouts and an opponent’s OPS of .894.
For Thursday, at least, Matz and the Mets won’t be faced with the prospect of those road bobbles until Aug. 4 when they travel to D.C. to face the Washington Nationals.
For Hefner’s initial journey working with Matz, the formula is to just simplify things.
“I was a player a lot longer than I was a coach. So for me, it’s just dialogue,” Hefner said. “With Matz, how he thinks about his stuff and how I think about his stuff, we go about figuring out the best way to go about getting the most guys out.”
To prepare for his start, much like deGrom did for his start on Wednesday night, Matz did not make the trip with the Mets to Boston for COVID precautions and to prepare for his outing.
If Matz can continue stepping up, he’ll provide a sizable boost for a Mets’ starting rotation that has some reason for unease following opening week. Matz, deGrom, Michael Wacha, and rookie David Peterson had quality outings, but Rick Porcello was rocked in his Mets debut against the Braves during a 14-1 loss. It’s a hodgepodge of arms to supplement the losses of Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, but it’s all the Mets have in a 60-game sprint.