Steven Matz didn’t give Mets a chance as playoff hopes fade

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The Mets withstood two consecutive abridged starts by their rotation, coming back each time behind a resilient bullpen and a productive lineup, to post two desperation wins they needed to barely remain alive in the National League playoff hunt.

Steven Matz, however, made sure there would not be a third.

Matz’s first start in more than a month was no different from those he’d fumbled through before getting pulled from the rotation in mid-August and eventually landing on the injured list with left shoulder discomfort.

The Long Island lefty was hammered for six runs on eight hits, including home runs by Marcell Ozuna and Austin Riley, in just 2 ²/₃ innings in a 15-2 drubbing Friday by the first-place Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

Todd Frazier worked a scoreless ninth for the Mets — even striking out Adam Duvall — to join Luis Guillorme as position players to pitch for them this season.

The 29-year-old Matz is winless in five decisions and seven appearances (one in relief) overall this season with a bloated 9.79 ERA. His last four starting outings since Aug. 4 have been even worse, crushed for 25 earned runs over 14 ¹/₃ frames (15.70).

Fellow starters Jacob deGrom (hamstring spasms) and Seth Lugo had totaled just 3 ²/₃ innings over the previous two games, but the bullpen excelled and the Mets stormed back to win both games to move within 1 ½ games of the second wild-card position in the National League entering this three-game series.

Steven Matz
Steven MatzRobert Sabo

Mets relievers worked a combined 14 ¹/₃ innings of one-run ball over the previous two nights before getting hammered for nine runs over the final six innings by the Braves (30-21).

“A lot has been asked from our bullpen as a lot of our starts have been shortened for any number of different reasons,” GM Brodie Van Wagenen said before the game. “But our bullpen has competed all year, and the last two nights have been a microcosm of that.

“We have some talent in the starting rotation, as well. … We still think even given all the challenges the rotation has had, we’ve got guys lined up that can still give us a chance.”

Matz provided them little chance to win in his latest punching-bag performance, allowing hits to the first four Braves he faced to open the game. He was fortunate to escape the inning with only one run scoring, as right fielder Michael Conforto threw out Freddie Freeman at third base on Ozuna’s RBI single.

But Matz, who made a scoreless one-inning relief appearance against the Yankees on Aug. 29 following his removal from the rotation, was tagged for a two-run double by Freeman and two-run home run to left by Ozuna, his 15th of the season for a 5-0 hole. His bullpen gassed, Luis Rojas sent Matz out for more in the third, and Riley crushed a 2-2 pitch over the wall in center for a leadoff blast and a six-run Atlanta lead.

Franklyn Kilome, who was summoned from the alternate site earlier in the day, replaced Matz (75 pitches) after two outs were recorded in the third.

One inning later, Kilome coughed up two-run homers to former Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Ozzie Albies and a two-run double to Nick Markakis to double the lead to 12. It was d’Arnaud’s eighth of the season and one of his three hits in the game, raising his average over 37 appearances this season to .336 with a .947 OPS. Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. added back-to-back blasts against Jared Hughes in the sixth.

Meanwhile, the Mets (23-28) mounted little resistance against Braves lefty Max Fried, who also was returning from a stint on the injured list due to a back issue.

Making his first start since Sept. 5, Fried limited the Mets to one run (Jeff McNeil’s RBI double) on three hits over five innings (80 pitches) to enhance his Cy Young Award case, improving to 7-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 10 starts this season.

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