PHILADELPHIA — Steven Splatz was more like it.
That was the sound Saturday of a certain Mets pitcher hitting the pavement like a watermelon heaved from the roof of a 32-story building, as the Phillies were putting the latest hurting on the beleaguered left-hander wearing No. 32.
If there was thought Steven Matz’s 8.20 ERA couldn’t get worse, think again. That number now stands at 9.00 after the Phillies pounced for five runs in the fifth inning against Matz in the Mets’ 6-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park.
Even with the Mets’ recent rotation turmoil, manager Luis Rojas wouldn’t commit afterward to keeping Matz as a starter.
“Right now, we just finished this game, and it was a tough game for Matzy,” Rojas said, when asked about the possibility of moving Matz to the bullpen. “That is something we really don’t want to get into right now. We don’t want to start talking about it. We really want to slow things down now and be able to talk about what’s going on.”
A struggling Matz was shifted to the bullpen near the end of last season’s first half and emerged after the All-Star break as a dependable starter. If the Mets had other options at this point, Matz to the bullpen might be an easier call.
Matz’s meltdown came a day after Walker Lockett was thrust into starting duty with ace Jacob deGrom sidelined by neck stiffness. Lockett allowed five runs over six innings in a loss. And within the last week, Michael Wacha was placed on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation and Marcus Stroman opted out from the season. One of the few positives has been the development of rookie left-hander David Peterson, but he departed his last start with shoulder fatigue, a situation the Mets are monitoring as he approaches his next outing.
Matz was knocked out after allowing six earned runs on five hits and three walks over 4 ¹/₃ innings. It followed an outing against the Nationals earlier in the week in which he surrendered three home runs.
Rhys Hoskins delivered the hurt in this one, with a bases-loaded double in the fifth against Matz that scored three runs. Bryce Harper’s ensuing RBI double buried the Mets in a 6-0 hole.
“It’s really frustrating — really, really frustrating for me,” Matz said. “I am trying to stay positive, trying to take the positives out of it and I have just got to execute better. I have got to give the team a better chance to win. It’s unacceptable.”
The Mets (9-13) will try to avoid getting swept three games in this series when they face Zack Wheeler on Sunday in the right-hander’s first appearance against his former team since receiving a five-year contract worth $118 million from the Phillies last winter. Rick Porcello will be asked to stop the bleeding from this wounded rotation.
After Matz stumbled briefly in the second, surrendering a solo homer to Jean Segura on a 2-2 changeup, he quickly recovered, but caved in the fifth, beginning with Didi Gregorius’ infield single. Phil Gosselin followed with a single and Alec Bohm walked to load the bases. Matz then walked Andrew McCutchen to force in a run before Hoskins smashed a double.
“I really do think I improved a lot on my stuff today, commanding my pitches” Matz said. “That fifth inning I made two good pitches and two base hits and then two hard-fought at-bats by those two guys, they drew a walk, and it’s really frustrating. It’s tough. In your head you want to go back and, ‘I have got to do something different.’ But ultimately I have just got to try to find the stuff I did well and just build off that.”
Aaron Nola stifled the Mets, allowing just three hits over seven shutout innings. Tomas Nido’s single leading off the third was the Mets’ didn’t last hit against the right-hander. Pete Alonso had struck out in the first with two runners in scoring position to kill a rally.
Smith launched a two-run blast in the ninth against Ramon Rosso. It gave Smith a homer in four straight games.