After a very encouraging conclusion to his spring, Steven Matz took the hill for the Mets for his season debut, facing off against Luke Weaver, the Cardinals’ highly touted young righty. Needless to say, it did not go how Matz or the Mets had hoped. Matz started off looking strong, working very quickly out of the windup in the top of the first inning, striking out Dexter Fowler looking to open the game, touching 95 mph with his fastball at times.
Matz then walked back-to-back batters, however, missing his location on his off-speed pitches. C.B. Bucknor’s small strike zone did not help matters, but this was balanced somewhat by Bucknor ringing up Marcell Ozuna on a questionable call on a check swing for the second out. Matz escaped the jam, then getting Jose Martinez to fly out to end the inning. However, he needed 26 pitches to do so—a trend that did not improve as the game went on. Matz seemed to be slowing down his arm speed on his changeup, which was not a successful pitch for him today.
The Mets also managed to make the opposing pitcher work in the first inning. Asdrubal Cabrera flew out to start the inning, but not before working a full count against Luke Weaver. Yoenis Cespedes, striding to the plate to “The Circle of Life” once more, then singled for the Mets’ first hit of the day. Jay Bruce squared up on a pitch and drove it to center, but unfortunately right at the center fielder Pham for the second out.
Cespedes then advanced to second on a short pitch in the dirt in a moment of heads-up baserunning, something the Mets seem to be doing more of these days. Todd Frazier then worked out a walk to put runners on first and second. Wilmer Flores worked a nine-pitch at-bat before finally striking out looking one of Weaver’s better pitches of the afternoon to end the threat for the Mets in the first.
The first run of the game came in the top of the second inning, when Met killer Paul DeJong hit a solo home run off Steven Matz, who had once again been squeezed by Bucknor on the pitch before. Matz was continuing to pitch to full counts on what felt like every batter, with his fastball sitting at 92-93 mph during the rest of his outing. Matz escaped the inning with no further damage, striking out the opposing pitcher Weaver on what was probably his best breaking ball of the afternoon for his third strikeout. But his pitch count stood at 51 pitches after just two innings.
The Mets answered in the bottom of the second inning with what was ultimately their only run of the day. Kevin Plawecki walked on four pitches to lead off the inning. Juan Lagares flew out to center field, but Steven Matz put down a beauty of a sacrifice bunt to move Plawecki into scoring position. Amed Rosario then singled to drive in Plawecki, but was promptly picked off first base by Weaver—known for his ability to control the running game—killing the small amount of momentum the Mets had built.
Matz’s struggles continued for the remainder of his outing. He led off the third with a strikeout of Dexter Fowler, his second time striking out Fowler and his fourth strikeout overall. Tommy Pham then hit a single and stole second base. Matz threw a good sequence of pitches—including a very nice curveball on strike two—to Matt Carpenter, who grounded out. However, Matz then left a breaking ball hanging to Marcell Ozuna and he did not miss it, ripping a double down the left field line to drive in Pham, putting the Cardinals up 2-1. The Cardinals would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the afternoon. They plated another run in the fourth inning thanks to a solo home run from Yadier Molina, who had to give the Mets one last kick in the shins before leaving Queens. Matz then promptly walked DeJong on four pitches, his outing on the precipice of going from mediocre to disastrous. However, Matz got Jedd Gyorko to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, which was nicely turned by Asdrubal Cabrera. After retiring Weaver on a tapped ball back to the mound, the book was closed on Matz, forced to exit after just four innings of work at 89 pitches.
Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame then pitched the middle innings for the Mets in relief, each surrendering one run. Paul Sewald was the victim of a questionable ball three call by C.B. Bucknor that could have been strike three before giving up a single to Tommy Pham in the top of the fifth inning. Sewald then walked Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna singled to drive in Carpenter for his second RBI of the game. Sewald then hit Jose Martinez with a pitch, but was bailed out by Molina grounding into an inning-ending double play. Sewald worked around a hit in the sixth inning, ultimately throwing 55 pitches in his outing—just two short of his career-high.
Jacob Rhame had a relatively quiet seventh, but gave up a solo homer to Paul DeJong in the eighth and was replaced by Jerry Blevins for the final out of the inning. Blevins struggled mightily with his control, walking two batters in a row, but ultimately wriggled out of it by retiring Matt Carpenter on a flyout to shallow left field.
The Mets’ offense never posed much of a threat after the second inning. Juan Lagares—a last minute fill-in for Brandon Nimmo—was really the only bright spot of the day offensively, racking up three hits, one of them a hustle infield single resulting from Jose Martinez’s lackluster stretch at first base. Todd Frazier was the victim of some rotten luck at the plate; he struck out looking on a dubious call from Bucknor on the seventh pitch of his at-bat in the third inning. He also ripped a ball deep to right field that was run down on the warning track by Fowler in the bottom of the fifth inning. If that drive had landed, it would have scored Jay Bruce, who smoked a double into the right field corner for the Mets’ only extra-base hit of the day. But this ain’t Yankee Stadium, Todd. Adrian Gonzalez, Phillip Evans, and Jose Reyes all made pinch hitting appearances for the Mets—for the latter two their first plate appearances of 2018. Adrian Gonzalez’s plate appearance was the only successful one of the three, however. He worked out a walk in the fourth inning, the Mets’ only baserunner that frame.
A.J. Ramos was the only Mets pitcher to throw a clean inning, setting down the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the ninth. Meanwhile, the Mets were retired very quickly in each of the final three innings of the game, with Juan Lagares’ third single in the ninth being the only base runner they managed over that span.
Overall, Steven Matz and the Mets’ middle relievers did not look terribly sharp this afternoon, but the Mets’ offense—which had been looking so good the first two games of this series—was also lackluster. This game certainly put a damper on the optimism inspired by the previous two days, leading one to question what games started by the non-Syndergaard-and-deGrom contingent will look like this season. Or maybe this just means the Mets will never win on Sunday.
We will see how Matt Harvey and Seth Lugo fare against the Phillies, who come into town for a three-game series at Citi Field starting tomorrow night, fresh off of Gabe Kapler’s early managing debacles. However, some rather nasty weather is in the forecast, so we shall see how much of this series is played as scheduled.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: None
Big losers: Steven Matz, -16.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Amed Rosario’s RBI single in the second inning, +10.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Marcell Ozuna’s RBI double in the third inning, -12.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -21% WPA
Total batter WPA: -29% WPA
GWRBI!: Marcell Ozuna