Steven Matz bounced back from a rough start against the Cubs, and the bullpen and offense did their thing as the Mets took the series against Miami.
Any fears that Mets fans had about Michael Conforto playing centerfield were alleviated somewhat when, on his very first play at the position in his major league career, he made an excellent diving catch in center field.
Conforto has been solid in left this season, collecting 2.2 FRAA and rating as average to above average by other defensive metrics. That catch helped bail out Matz of what could’ve been a rough inning, as he allowed a single to Martin Prado and a two-out walk to Stanton before inducing a Marcell Ozuna forceout to end the inning.
Matz wasn’t totally dominating, as he put a runner on base here or there most innings, but he always got out of trouble with a strikeout or a ground out. Last Monday against the Cubs, Matz’s fastball was a tick off, averaging just under his usual 94 miles per hour, and his offspeed pitches were flat. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, as Matz frequently popped the gun at 94-95. Although he relied on his heater for 73 of his 99 pitches, his offspeed stuff was sharp. These subtle improvements in Matz’s repertoire made him much more effective, especially when facing the Marlins instead of the Cubs.
Matz’s biggest test came in the fifth inning with the Mets holding onto a one run lead, when he got two quick outs before allowing a single to Martin Prado, the third of four times that the .292 TAv hitter reached base. After being brushed off the plate by an up-and-in fastball and fouling a ball of his foot, Christian Yelich knocked a ball through the hole in the left side of the infield. With the 2-out 3-2 count, Prado had been running on the pitch, and he rounded second and barreled for third, a daring play with two outs against Yoenis Cespedes’s arm. However, Prado hustled in just safe, as Jose Reyes was unable to get the tag down.
With runners on first and third, Matz was set to face Giancarlo Stanton. He threw two garbage pitches high, and it looked like he would walk Stanton and take his chances with Ozuna with the bases loaded. But Matz threw a soft breaking ball on the third pitch, which Stanton chopped softly to Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera charged the ball and his throw beat Stanton at first by a hair to preserve the one-run lead. Matz threw his only one-two-three frame in the next inning, and then handed it off to the bullpen.
Conforto led off the third inning with a bloop single between Yelich and Ozuna, and advanced to second and third on groundouts by Rene Rivera and Matz. Then, Jose Reyes flashed shades of what allowed him to average 13 triples a year and lead the league four times between 2005 and 2011.
Jose’s second triple of the season gave the Mets their first run of the game. The score stayed within one until the eighth. Two batters into that inning, Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough found himself with two strikeouts but only one out and pitching from the stretch, as Alejandro de Aza hustled down to first after swinging wildly at a Barraclough breaking ball for strike three that bounced away from Marlins catcher JT Realmuto. Barraclough walked Curtis Granderson and gave up a single to Cespedes, which drove in de Aza and allowed Granderson to advance to third. Three pitches later, James Loney lined a pitch to right field to bring home Granderson, and the Mets were up by three.
After walking Kelly Johnson, Barraclough nearly gave up another when he allows a sharply hit ground ball to Cabrera. However, first baseman Miguel Rojas made a diving stop and threw the ball slightly wide to Realmuto. The umpire originally ruled that Realmuto had strayed too far off of home plate, but after the Marlins challenged the play the ruling was overturned and Cespedes was out on the force. Dustin McGowan replaced Barraclough and induced a flyout from Juan Lagares, leaving the game at 3-0.
But it was no matter, as the Mets’ solid bullpen, which ranks 11th in baseball in DRA, held Miami scoreless for the final three innings. The solid trio of Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia combined to retire 9 of the 10 batters they faced to preserve the Mets’ 52nd win of the season.
-Reyes’s triple was his 101st of his career, and with each triple he hits in the orange and blue he’ll continue to break his own franchise record.
-The win brought the Mets to within a half game of the Marlins for the second Wild Card spot, but they’re still about 10% more likely than the Marlins to make the playoffs, according to BP’s playoff odds (although that’s been cut down from about 20% more likely just last week.)
-The Mets will head back home on Monday to face another wild card rival in the Cardinals, who are locked in a dead heat with the Mets in the standings. However, BP’s playoff odds still gives the Mets the slight edge to make the postseason, seeing them as the most likely second Wild Card winner. Carlos Martinez will face Jacob deGrom tomorrow.
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell: USA-TODAY Sports