I wasn’t quite calm today, watching Steven Matz on the mound. I was rooting — hard — for him to continue his string of excellent starts, but from the beginning, I wasn’t sure if he had it.
“Maybe today he’ll be a little off,” I thought, as he allowed Daniel Murphy to reach in the first, then allowed baserunners in each of the first three innings.
I watched, on tenterhooks, as Matz attempted to navigate the Nationals’ lineup. Then, suddenly, I looked up, and realized that Matz had gone eight scoreless, lowered his E.R.A. to 2.36, and was in line for his seventh win, which was secured shortly thereafter with a not-unmanageable amount of stress from Jeurys Familia.
That’s Matz’s brand of nastiness. He’s not Thor, where you can see the ball flaming as the hitter misses it. He’s not Colón, who can amaze on any given day by something as simple as taking a swing. Rather, the brilliance of Matz lies in his deceptive look of the everyman.
“He’s got decent stuff,” you say to yourself. “Sitting at 93 or 94, got a curve and a change, we should hit him a little.”
Then before you can even wonder, “why aren’t we hitting?” the fastball is by you, or you’ve flailed and missed at the change, or the curve has snapped in for a called third strike, and you’re headed back to the dugout, another victim of far from everyman Steven Matz.
Just look at the career numbers of the kid who, compared to the rest of the staff, isn’t supposed to be all that intimidating: 11-1. 2.32 E.R.A. No, he’s not intimidating. He just gets his job done, and done mighty well at that.
Speaking of getting one’s job done, has anyone checked in on captain David Wright lately? He’s hitting the ball hard — after the week or so slump that had many people convinced, for the third or fourth time this season, that he was done — and making every at-bat a battle. Let’s remember, people, that this is a player with a .352 OBP and six home runs, only eleven shy of the Mets club record: next time you want to declare him done, give it a week or so, and see if it takes.
Also speaking of getting one’s job done, few people approved of the decision to let Daniel Murphy go, and, we saw this series, it was not without reason: Murph is a hitting machine, as most of us knew from his time in Queens. Nevertheless, Neil Walker is a very capable replacement, and today we saw why: Campbell hit a ball at Murph that should have been his (Campbell’s) second GIDP of the day. And Murph booted it.
Right through the legs it went, and to third went Matt Reynolds (as of earlier today, by the way, possessor of his first MLB hit, so congratulations are in order to the kid who’s waited an inordinate while for his chance to do just this). And on Mets Twitter, the imaginary Murph civil war — a conflict taking place between those who know EVERYONE knows that it’s a bad thing Murph is gone, and those who think they’re the ONLY ones that know it’s a bad thing that Murph is gone — became a conflagration. It wasn’t quite redemption for game four, but it was something approaching that. And it certainly didn’t hurt when Rene Rivera drove home Reynolds with an RBI single.
We’ve certainly got an interesting dynamic going on this team: we’re in second place, only half a game behind the Nationals, and solidly above .500, yet we adore some of the players — Rivera, of course, but also Bartolo — as if they’re the quirky vets making a bad team fun. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s the opposite of one. It’s all the fun of baseball without a care, with the added benefit of a team deserving of all the care in the world and then some.
It’s Baseball Like It Oughta Be.
And speaking of which, Matz sent us into an off day on a good note, but when Mets baseball resumes on Friday, it won’t just be any other set of games. 1986 weekend is coming up, a three game set with the Dodgers, and, as one notable figure in Mets history admonished, you should come by if you’re in the area.
Saturday night, it all goes down: the ’86 Mets reunite, minus a few nonessential pieces and Roger McDowell (busy working for the Braves, which still sounds wrong). If history is any indication, Howie Rose will MC.
On August 19th, 2006, the Mets held a 1986 celebration in honor of the 20th anniversary of the World Series winning season. I was there that night, Mets agains the Rockies, rain falling and then letting up, Dave Williams on the mound, Mets falling behind and then scoring later to win it, as we did so often in 2006.
The two teams — the 2006 Mets who celebrated the 1986 team, and the 2016 team about to celebrate the same — have very little in common; in fact, they share only one player. That’s the captain, obviously. But they’re both Mets teams. They’re both great Mets teams.
And as long as the 2016 version keeps playing baseball exactly the way it oughta be played, I can’t think of a better way to honor the ’86 team, who set the standard the 2016 team is looking for.