Once compared to Clayton Kershaw, Steven Matz has a chance to beat him on the big stage
As the hours, minutes and seconds count to Game Four of the NLDS between the Mets and Dodgers, young lefty Steven Matz prepares himself for the biggest start of his baseball life.
It will be not easy task for Matz, not only because he hasn’t pitched a major league game since September 24th in Cincinnati, but also because of the presence that opposes him on the mound.
Yes, he has a reputation for struggling in the postseason. Yes, the Mets beat him in Game One. Yes, he’s pitching on three-days rest… But it’s still Kershaw.
While the two have never faced off against each other in their careers prior to tonight, the rookie Matz does have a bit of a connection to Kershaw, as he’s drawn comparisons to the reigning Cy Young Award winner and MVP in the past.
“His stuff compares with Kershaw,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told Robert Brender back in 2014. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
“I hate to make those comparisons, but I just did,” Warthen continued. “It’s so easy, so explosive coming out of his hand. He’s exciting to me.”
The statements from Warthen at the time were bold, as Kershaw was dominating all of baseball in 2014 while Matz was still in Double-A Binghamton. Still though, as Matz’s career has begun to blossom over the last season, you can see the talent that’s there.
In six starts with the Mets this season, the rookie left-hander went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA, 34 strikeouts and a 1.23 WHIP in 35.2 innings pitched with the only thing slowing him down being injuries.
The comparisons are there. Whether it be to World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner according to Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola or Kershaw as Warthen and others have suggested, the expectations for Matz are high ones.
Tonight, on baseball’s biggest stage, Matz has the chance to prove his pitching coaches right and show everyone across this sport that these comparisons aren’t as ludicrous as they may have once seemed.
Even with Kershaw going on three-days rest, this isn’t going to be easy, as the reigning MVP has an ERA of 2.24 in two career postseason starts on short rest.
If Matz can do what he’s shown he’s capable of in his limited time in the big leagues, however, he has the chance to defeat the man he’s been compared to and send this Mets franchise into their first NLCS appearance since 2006.
Let’s go Matz. Let’s go Mets.