Whatever was bothering Steven Matz in his first start of the season, it's safe to say it has been fixed.
Matz improved to 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA in four starts since his rough 2016 debut for the New York Mets. His 7 2/3 scoreless innings in an 8-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday were a near duplicate for what Matt Wisler did to the Mets on Tuesday.
How is Matz doing it? Let’s take inventory:
Strike-throwing machine -- Matz doesn’t mess around. In this four-start streak, he’s thrown all four of his pitches (fastball curveball, slider, changeup) for at least a 68 percent strike rate. He has 29 strikeouts and five walks in 27 innings in this span.
The curveball -- It’s a pitch Matz uses sparingly, but wisely. He got a pair of strikeouts with it among the 13 he threw on Wednesday. In this four-start stretch, opponents are 2-for-18 in at-bats ending with a Matz curveball (a pitch he got to throw only five times when he was rocked by the Marlins in his debut).
Weak contact -- Matz’s hard-hit rate in his past four starts of 8 percent is in line with his rate from last season. It ranks 13th best in the majors (out of 104 qualifiers) since April 17.
A little help -- Matz has benefited the most from his catcher’s ability to get more called strikes for him than anyone else on the Mets this season. Matz has gotten about 10 more called strikes than the average pitcher would have gotten on the same pitches.
Wednesday’s catcher, Rene Rivera, has rated well historically in that regard. He got Matz two called strikes above average against the Braves.
Matz has fared well with defensive-minded catchers in his brief career. In four starts with Kevin Plawecki and Rivera, he’s allowed two earned runs in 26 innings.
Matz has gotten a little help and maybe a little luck when it comes to his defense. Opposing hitters are 8-for-16 when hitting a line drive against him (hitters typically bat .700 or better on line drives).
It’s hard to get a full read on Matz, given that two of his wins came against the Braves and one came against the Indians, but he did hold a Giants team that entered Wednesday third in the National League in runs scored scoreless in six innings in his last start prior to this one.
A little sunshine
Whether it’s an odd quirk or there’s something to it remains to be seen, but Matz is now 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in five afternoon starts. He’s allowed only 16 hits in 33 2/3 daytime innings.
He’s giving teammate Jacob deGrom a run for his money in that regard. DeGrom is 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 21 career daytime starts.
Did you know?
Matz has eight wins in his first 11 appearances, the most by any Mets pitcher that early in his career. The previous mark of seven was set by Jason Isringhausen.