Steven Matz grew up on Long Island as a New York Mets fan, and on Wednesday will have a chance to help sweep the Cubs and send his childhood team to the World Series.
Game 4 of the National League Championship Series will only be Matz’s eighth major league start. He made his debut in The Show June 28 — and, incredibly, went 3-3 with four RBIs against Cincinnati — but suffered a partial tear of his lat muscle in early July that sidelined him for two months.
Upon returning to the Mets rotation in early September, the 24-year-old left-hander made four starts, but was scratched from a scheduled Sept. 30 outing due to upper back spasms. But what Matz may lack in experience, he makes up for with an excellent repertoire.
“This guy's got plus stuff,” manager Terry Collins said. “He's got a plus fastball. He's going to be 94 to 97. He's got a plus curveball. He's got a good changeup.”
Matz allowed nine runs in 35 2/3 innings (a 2.27 ERA) in his six regular season starts, then fired five innings of three-run ball in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. A common thread between Matz’s starts, though, is plenty of time off — he pitched on six days rest twice in the regular season, and went 19 days between his Sept. 24 and Oct. 13 starts.
Matz isn’t on as significant a break this time around — nine days — but said he’s learned how to manage those lengthy breaks. He threw a pair of bullpen sessions during his currently layoff and said adjusting to something other than an every-fifth-day schedule hasn’t been difficult.
“It hasn't been too challenging,” Matz said. “I’m still able to get my work in in between starts. You know, you're not on necessarily a routine as I was during the regular season. But I'm still able to get my work in, and I still feel fresh for each start.”
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Collins said he hopes to get five or six innings out of Matz in Game 4 before turning things over to a well-rested bullpen.
Cubs hitters posted a .238/.319/.372 slash line against left-handers during the regular season, and only 29 of their 171 home runs came against Southpaws. He hasn’t faced the Cubs in his career and only faced one of their affiliates once — a 2014 start against the high Class-A Daytona Cubs, which didn’t have any current major leagues in its lineup.
Still, while the Cubs’ bats haven’t produced this series, Matz said he’ll follow the lead of the three starters before him as he looks to live out every kid’s dream and pitch his favorite team into the World Series.
“They look like a tough lineup,” Matz said. “They're a bunch of young, fiery guys. Matt (Harvey) and Noah (Syndergaard) have done a great job the first two games, so I'm just going to watch Jacob (DeGrom) today, see how he attacks them, and try to just build off those guys.”