Fewer than three weeks ago, Steven Matz sported a 37.80 ERA after he gave up seven runs to the Miami Marlins in fewer than two innings in his first start of the year. Someone suggested he needed a minor league demotion. Since then, he has successfully buried any proof of that forgettable outing.
Matz continued his string of dominance on Wednesday afternoon, hurling seven-and-two-thirds scoreless innings in the Mets' 8-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. The 24-year-old southpaw has allowed two earned runs over his last four starts, all victories, to deflate his ERA to 2.83.
His peripherals portray him as a legit ace rather than the guy who stumbled through his first 2016 appearance. Matz has compiled 30 strikeouts and seven walks over 28.2 innings while inducing a 55.4 ground ball rate. Wednesday's start improved his FIP to 2.36, which places him among the top 10 of all qualified starters.
An important caveat: Two of those starts came at Atlanta's expense, and the Braves stink. Three Mets—Neil Walker, Yoenis Cespedes, and Lucas Duda—have each hit more home runs than the entire Braves roster, which has gone deep six times this season. They ranked last in team wOBA before Matz mowed them down on Wednesday.
Then again, Matz also threw six shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants, an actual major league team with an underrated offense. In eleven career regular season starts, Matz has a 2.52 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 64.1 innings.
So what happened on April 11? Maybe the delayed debut caused by the Mets' abnormal schedule interfered with his routine. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton is just ridiculously good at crushing baseballs. Or maybe it was just one of those days. Every pitcher is bound to endure one, but Matz had the misfortune of having his stand alone for several days at the beginning of the season. The Marlins also tacked Clayton Kershaw for five runs on April 26, and he's still just fine.