NEW YORK -- When he stepped into Citi Field around 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, Steven Matz had no way of knowing it would be almost eight hours before he would finally step to the mound in his debut. When he did, it was worth the wait.
After three months at Triple-A Las Vegas, then a rain delay and half of a 13-inning suspended game on Sunday afternoon, Matz drove home four runs, the first pitcher to do so in his Major League debut, and pitched 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball in a 7-2 win over the Reds at Citi Field.
The latest in a line of blue-chip pitching prospects the Mets have rolled out over the past three calendar years, Matz debuted in front of a boisterous local crowd cheering on the Long Island native's every move. Receiving multiple standing ovations throughout the game, Matz allowed nothing other than a pair of solo homers from Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier.
"I could definitely hear it," Matz said of the crowd. "I was just going out there not trying to change much. Just going out there, trying to win a game."
But his most valuable contributions came at the plate, particularly for a Mets team that has struggled to score all month. Matz doubled home New York's first two runs off Reds starter Josh Smith in his first career plate appearance, singled to extend a rally off Smith in the fifth inning, and drove home another two runs with a single off Pedro Villarreal in the sixth.
"He's as advertised," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You all witnessed it."
He is the first pitcher on record (since 1914) to have three hits and four RBIs in his first Major League game, and the 11th player overall. He's also the only pitcher with four-plus RBIs in his debut, regardless of hits. Matz is seventh pitcher since 1914 to have three hits in his debut and the first to do so since Colorado's Jason Jennings in 2001. Before Jennings, it hadn't happened since the Red Sox's Dave Ferris pulled it off in 1945.
"It was just hit and miss with the command," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think the key for Josh is to work ahead and challenge more in the zone. His ball-strike ratios need to come up and he needs to be in more advantageous counts. He has to 0-1 and 1-2 a lot more than 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, etc. It will help keep his pitch count down."
That allowed the Mets to cap off a three-game sweep of the Reds, winning their fourth straight overall.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
New Jersey vs. Long Island: Following a game-beginning homer by Phillips, the Long Island native Matz didn't give up another hit until the fourth inning. A string of seven-in-a-row retired was ended by a New Jersey native in Frazier, who drove a 2-1 pitch into the left field seats to make it a 2-2 game. It was Frazier's 25th homer of the season, which moved him into second in the Majors behind the now-injured Giancarlo Stanton (27 homers). More >
Matz with the batz: After the Reds intentionally walked Eric Campbell to face Matz in the second inning, the rookie responded with a two-run double in his first career plate appearance. Matz pumped his fist after reaching second base on a hit that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead.
When asked after the game about his favorite part of the day, Matz grinned and replied: "Definitely the double."
Another error for Suarez: To start the bottom of the second inning, Reds shortstop Eugenio Suarez committed his sixth error of the season, and fifth in the last four games. Suarez botched a Darrell Ceciliani groundball. Ceciliani scored with two outs on Matz's double. Price continued to back Suarez.
"I'd like him to get back there and relax," Price said. "I think it's like anything you do in baseball. You struggle in some certain aspect, whether it's to throw strikes, if it's to put the ball in play - you start thinking differently than just going out there and playing the game. He's going to keep going out there to play shortstop. We know he's a good one. We'll let him go out there and play through."
Matz with the batz part two: Anticipation bubbled throughout the Citi Field crowd in the sixth inning, when Matz came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. He ran the count to 2-2 before smacking a single to center field, plating two runs to give the Mets a 6-2 lead. That hit made him the first Mets player -- pitcher or position player -- to drive home four runs in his debut.
"I think the thing that stands out is we have to play better on the road. Granted, we lost two 2-1 games, one in 13 innings to start off our day today. That affected how we were able to lay out our bullpen. It put us in a situation to stay longer with Josh and to keep Pedro out there than I would have liked, but we need to play better on the road. We're doing fine at home, but we have to play much better on the road to be competitive." -- Price, on the sweep by the Mets
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Matz became only the 11th player since 1900 to collect at least three hits and four RBIs in his big league debut. Three of the 11 have done so this year: Matz, Joey Gallo of the Rangers and Mark Canha of the A's.
The Reds saw any momentum gained from winning the previous series at Pittsburgh ground to a halt. Cincinnati scored 21 runs on 54 hits over the four games prior to arriving in New York at 4 a.m. ET Friday. In the three-game series at Citi Field, the club scored a total of four runs with 22 hits. Now with a 34-40 record, the Reds are 14-26 on the road after the 2-4 road trip compared to 20-14 at home.
Because MLB's suspended game rules allowed both teams to carry a 26th man for the day, the Mets did not have to clear roster space for Matz on Sunday morning. But they did afterward, optioning left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich to Triple-A Las Vegas. Leathersich posted a 2.53 ERA in 15 appearances during his second stint with the Mets.
When Phillips led off the game with a drive to left field, it was originally ruled a single off of the left field wall. Upon a crew-chief review, the replay showed that Phillips' drive actually hit the railing above the orange line on top of the fence, making it a homer. It also meant Phillips hit safely in all 32 career games played in Queens, tying Luis Castillo for the longest hitting streak by a Mets opponent. More >
Reds:Mike Leake will get the ball Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET when the Reds open a six-game homestand with three games vs. the Twins at Great American Ball Park. Leake has won three-straight decisions in his last four starts and has given up only two earned runs over his last two starts, totaling 14 innings.
Mets: Following an off day Monday, left-hander Jon Niese will kick off a three-game series against the Cubs at 7:10 p.m. ET Tuesday at Citi Field. Niese, who has been linked to the Cubs and Dodgers, among others, in trade rumors, has posted a 3.46 ERA over his last four starts.