Matz steps up playoff use in Blue Jays win
TORONTO – As important as every game is for the Blue Jays in their playoff pursuit, there is also a lot at stake for Blue Jays starter Steven Matz.
The 30-year-old has been a revelation for Toronto since being acquired in a secret offseason deal for Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and minor league pitcher John Winckowski.
The price was understandably low at the time – Matz was coming off a horrific 2020 season where he allowed a staggering 4.1 HR / 9 in six starts – and the Blue Jays took their chances by adding it to a rotation which, at the time, was relatively unproven.
Toronto’s rotation has since become one of the AL’s best, and Matz is one of the main reasons. He’s anchored the rear half of the staff, and the timing of his 180-degree turnaround couldn’t be better.
“Last year obviously didn’t go very well for me,” said Matz. “I’m grateful to have an opportunity here with the Jays with such a good team. And so it’s been great working with [pitching coach] rock [Walker]. I really feel like I’ve made a lot of progress this season and I’ve learned a lot. “
It’s a contract year for the southpaw, the Jays are on a playoff chase, and like Hyun Jin Ryu the night before, Matz is looking to consolidate a role in the playoff rotation. In Saturday’s 6-2 win on the Twins, he gave his team plenty of reasons to believe in him. But not at first.
A first inning walk to Jorge Polanco gave Josh Donaldson a home run – a deep drive to right field on a lead at the top of the zone – to give Minnesota a two-point lead early on. But, like he’s been doing all season, Matz bounced back.
He rushed to put out 16 of the next 17 batters he faced and approached a strike to complete the sixth inning, before a walk and a single knocked him out. Matz’s afternoon was complete after throwing 5 2/3 innings of two-run, allowing just three hits, while walking two and putting out five.
“I had the curve ball so I used it a lot,” Matz said. “They weren’t doing any damage. I felt really comfortable with the first strike, [then] tidy up with that [pitch].
“[To] Donaldson, I just made a bad pitch. Come to think of it, I could have done different things there. “
The Blue Jays offense helped a lot in the fourth inning. Marcus Semien snatched away Homer 40, then Teoscar Hernández conceded Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette with a massive three-point bomb, adding to his 106 RBIs leading the team.
The big stick push allowed Toronto to avenge their loss the night before, but Matz held on the team once again – he’s now allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his last nine starts.
Matz’s final line isn’t immediately obvious, but the Rogers Center devotees certainly appreciated his efforts, covering him with a remarkably loud ovation as he left the mound.
That’s the thing with Matz, he’s been deviously talented lately. It’s only now, in the middle of a playoff race, that fans are really starting to appreciate what he does.
“Now that we are talking about people that nobody talks about, Matz is another guy,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He has been stable since his return from [the COVID list]. He’s been one of our best pitchers and gives us a shot every time he comes out. And he did the same today. “
In a rotation led by popular names like Robbie Ray, José Berríos and Alek Manoah, Matz is often overlooked, but he has some serious experience in October. He started in the 2015 World Series as a rookie with the Mets and, based on the last two months of play, Matz has earned the right to replace Ryu in a playoff rotation.
“I’m still talking about [how] momentum is the starter for the next day, ”said Montoyo. “And every time he takes the mound, he gives us momentum.
“He was great at hitting with all of his shots, keeping the hitters off balance. He was one of our best starters. And that says a lot because the other guys are doing great too.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the money Ray is getting this offseason, but if Matz continues to shine, he’ll command a decent paycheck as well. It’s a bit early to speculate, but a contract in the range of a $ 45 million three-year contract doesn’t seem unreasonable for a guy who now has a 3.84 ERA.
Before that happens, the Blue Jays must keep winning to reach the playoffs. Matz did his part on Sunday and the offense took care of the rest to give Toronto a half-game lead over the Yankees for the AL’s second wild card.