Don’t look now, Mets have a new best pitcher
LOS ANGELES — Steven Matz has come of age.
Cody Bellinger did more damage to the Mets Tuesday night, but this time Matz, who turns 28 on Wednesday, did not allow that big blow to ruin his or the Mets’ night.
Matz pitched six strong innings in the Mets’ 7-3 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium to get the victory and up his record to 4-3, a win made possible because of Michael Conforto’s first grand slam as a major leaguer that snapped a 2-2 tie in the seventh.
With the win, the Mets ended a six-game road losing streak.
Don’t look now but Matz’ 3.55 ERA is the best among Mets starting pitchers. Better than Jacob deGrom. Better than Noah Syndergaard. Better than Zack Wheeler.
“That’s the best Matz has ever pitched,’’ Mickey Callaway said. “He got the ball and threw the ball, not one ounce of emotion. You could tell he was locked in. He did what he had to do against a lineup like that. He’s been our most consistent starter.’’
Said Matz of the win and his success this season, “I just think my change-up has really been a pitch that’s just kind of taken off this year, compared to previous years, that’s really the biggest thing, having my change-up getting them off my fastball.’’
All that is a credit to how far Matz has come this season. The lefty allowed two runs over six innings on four hits, walked three and struck out six and he scored the Mets first run on nifty baserunning. Bellinger’s two-run home run came in the third inning off a hanging 0-2 curve ball.
That was Bellinger’s 20th home run of the season.
As Robert Raioli, Sports TaxMan, noted on Twitter “$1,193,248 = amount #Mets will pay Bobby Bonilla this season … $605,000 = amount #Dodgers will pay Cody Bellinger this season.
The Mets needed a strong outing from Matz because deGrom could give them just five innings Monday night. DeGrom left with a 3-2 lead.
DeGrom’s ERA is 3.71. He has been solid but needs to be better. Scouts who watched deGrom Monday night told the Post that his slider simply does not have the same bite it had last year. It is difficult to duplicate a Cy Young season, but deGrom knows he can be better. Same goes for Syndergaard who will pitch Wednesday night, carrying a 4.93 ERA.
As for the offense, a Mets veteran joined the party.
Todd Frazier’s solo home run in the fourth off Rich Hill tied the game at 2-2. As Frazier rounded second, like he always does on his home runs, he looked down at his left wrist as if he were looking at his watch. “I check my watch to let them know it wasn’t the right time [to throw that pitch],’’ Frazier said.
But Frazier was really impressed by the Mets’ left-hander.
“What more can you say about Matz, he’s been our best guy so far this year,’’ Frazier said of Matz, who is 3-0 lifetime at Dodger Stadium with a 2.63 ERA. “I think he is determined and knows that he has really good stuff, and he is showing it out there.’’
Matz came in owning a 3.03 ERA (30 earned runs/89.0 innings) over his last 17 starts since last Aug. 21. That is the 12th-best ERA in the NL in that span (min. 80.0 innings). His .224 opponent average (74-331) also ranks 10th in the NL during that stretch.
Other than the mistake to Bellinger, Matz was in control. He seems to finally have gotten his emotions under control, which is the key to his pitching. Often in the past Matz has allowed one bad pitch or play to ruin his night, but after surrendering that long home run to Bellinger, Matz settled down and pitched three scoreless innings.
Matz was lifted for pinch-hitter Aaron Altherr in the seventh after Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a walk. Another walk and a muff of Amed Rosario’s bunt loaded the bases for the Mets. After J.D. Davis struck out, Dave Roberts went to lefty Scott Alexander to face Conforto, who unloaded the grand slam into the left field bleachers.
That was enough. Matz’s strong start and strong ERA shows he has come of age.
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