Typical quick tempo may have hurt Mets rookie, who had won 7 straight starts before Tuesday's setback
By David Adler
NEW YORK -- Steven Matz works fast -- faster than any other starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. The Mets' coaching staff praises him for it. But in New York's 6-4 loss to the White Sox on Tuesday night at Citi Field, he might have gotten ahead of himself.
Matz entered on a brilliant stretch, having won seven straight starts while allowing two runs or fewer in each to tie a franchise record set by Tom Seaver. He'd lowered his season ERA to 2.36 even after allowing seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first start of the year -- all while averaging 17.9 seconds between pitches, fastest among starters on FanGraphs' leaderboard.
Pitching against Chicago two days after his 25th birthday, Matz rolled through five innings. But then he derailed in the sixth, allowing three runs on a walk and four hits, including a two-run homer to Todd Frazier. He allowed Tyler Saladino to steal second and third base without a throw in the same at-bat.
Matz was knocked out of the game after 5 2/3 -- his first time since that opening start against the Marlins that he was unable to finish the sixth. When manager Terry Collins came to get the ball from his left-hander, after a discussion with catcher Kevin Plawecki, the Mets' skipper concluded that Matz was rushing and leaving balls over the middle of the plate.
"We haven't seen those kind of swings against him probably since the first outing of the season," Collins said. "So you could tell something's wrong."
With Matz out of the game, the White Sox took the lead late off the Mets' struggling bullpen -- after a dominant, pre-scheduled interlude by Noah Syndergaard, pitching in relief for the first time in a regular-season game due to his third-inning ejection in his last start. Matz lost the chance to become the first left-hander since 1900 to win 12 of his first 15 Major League starts.
In retrospect, he said, he might have slowed himself down a little bit when he got into trouble.
"In the moment, you don't really pay attention to that -- otherwise I wouldn't have done it. But looking back at it, maybe I was rushing a little bit," Matz said. "You take stuff out of every start. This one, maybe: I've just got to slow myself down sometimes. That's something that's worked against me before, rushing out there."
That doesn't mean he'll start pitching slower overall. Matz has worked quickly throughout his young career, and especially during his dominant run this season. Soon enough, Collins said, he'll figure out the right time to take a breath.
"He always works fast, he's always been a guy who gets the ball and gets on the mound. But you've got to give yourself a little bit of a break," Collins said.
"He did just come off a huge outing against the Nationals. So you've just got to kind of slow yourself down a little bit, to make each pitch mean something, instead of just rearing back and throwing it. That's something he'll learn. He's been absolutely brilliant."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.