Yesterday, a day where a former elite pitcher refused to speak to the media about his move to the bullpen, and the day after a former top pitching prospect had another rocky start, continuing the unevenness that has defined his injury-laden career, another former top pitching prospect started for Mets, and got lit up, prolonging his struggles.
In 2015, the Mets had the most vaunted array of young, hard-throwing arms. It was so easy to dream of the rotation the Mets were going to have. The rotation would’ve been just a cavalcade of one fireballer after another. It would’ve been a spectacle. Unfortunately, things rarely work out as planned. Dreams fail. Two and a half years later, two of the young studs still remain effective pitchers, while the rest are left picking up the pieces of their careers.
Failure is hard to endure, and it’s hard to see others endure it. Watching a young pitcher who once had it all struggle to get outs is one of the hardest things for a fan to watch. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We’ve spent lots of time lamenting the rotation that could have been, but this isn’t going to be yet another be a requiem for that dream. Look, the dream is dead. We have to move on.
Failure is hard to accept, but accepting it and moving forward is absolutely necessary for success. And right now, the Mets might have to accept the reality that Steven Matz just might not be a major-league starting pitcher anymore. And it looks like they’re close to doing that.
Of course, only three of the seven runs Matz gave up last night were actually earned. His defense let him down, and he got no favors from the BABIP fairy. That said, he didn’t exactly look good, either. He missed his spots, hung some breaking pitches and gave up some loud contact as well.
A start like this is one you could give a pitcher a pass for; it wasn’t all his fault. The Mets made three errors behind him and looked awful in all facets. But you can’t give a pitcher a pass for a start like this when he hasn’t pitched well in almost a calendar year. In his last 14 starts dating back to early July of last season, Matz has a game score over 50 in just two of those starts: August 12 against the Phillies and April 7 against the Nationals earlier this month. Everything else has been a sub-par outing.
Look, I don’t mean to write off Matz, because he isn’t done yet. I’m not throwing in the towel on him, because he still has time. He’s only made a few starts this year, and he pitched through pain all of last year. But you can’t make excuses for him anymore. He’s battled myriad injuries, and those injuries have taken much of what once made him promising. His sinker has lost about three mph of velocity, he doesn’t throw his slider anymore, his curve isn’t what it once was and his impeccable control is gone.
The Mets probably shouldn’t pull the plug on Matz just yet, but they should start seriously entertaining the thought of Seth Lugo in the rotation and Steven Matz as a left-handed reliever. Ultimately, Matz has shown flashes this year of being competent, but at some point, a team gunning for the playoffs needs more than simply flashes of competence from one of their starters. They need sustained quality and legitimate success. And Matz hasn’t had that since 2016.
Lugo, on the other hand, earned a starting spot out of spring training and was, perhaps unjustly, moved to the bullpen after the first time through the rotation.
After Matz was removed last night, Corey Oswalt made his MLB debut, entering into a jam in the fourth inning. He allowed a few inherited runners to score, and gave up a two-run homer to Jedd Gyorko, but ultimately gave the Mets exactly what they needed: 4.2 innings in relief, biting the bullet and eating the rest of the innings in the game to save the Mets bullpen. So kudos to Oswalt.
On offense, the Mets scored one run off seven hits. The one run scored on a Jay Bruce single in the third. Todd Frazier was the only person to reach base twice. Jose Lobaton finally got another hit.
The Cardinals scored nine runs.
These games will happen.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
– Asdrubal Cabrera has a hamstring issue, which means the baseball season is officially underway. Cabrera sat last night and is day-to-day.
– Matt Harvey cursed out some reporters. Maybe you heard about it.
The Mets play the rubber game against the Cardinals at 1:15 p.m. today in St. Louis. Noah Syndergaard takes on Carlos Martinez in an Opening Day rematch.
Photo credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports