Mets left-hander Steven Matz turned in seven brilliant innings, outdueling Indians ace Corey Kluber, and looking more like the National League Rookie of the Year contender he is expected to be this season, in a 6-0 win over the Indians on Sunday.
The victory helped New York take two of three in this Interleague set at Progressive Field, and it served as a solid bounceback performance for Matz. In his season debut last week, the promising lefty suffered the worst outing of his career. Sunday showed that the young starter can easily turn the page on that kind of experience.
Matz struck out a career-high nine batters in his first win of the year, leading the Mets to their first series victory.
"It's great to start the road trip this way," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I thought when we went on the road we were going to start playing a little bit better, swinging the bats a little bit better, and we have. We've just got to continue."
Kluber, on the other hand, found the loss column for the third time this season with a performance that was a mix of poor command and tough conditions. Four of the nine hits allowed by the right-hander were of the extra-base variety, but two (a triple by Curtis Granderson and a double by Yoenis Cespedes in the second inning) were aided by a bright sun that toyed with Cleveland's outfielders.
New York went 2-for-15 against Kluber following Cespedes' sun-assisted double, but the damage had been done. Kluber was charged with six earned runs and finished with eight strikeouts and one walk in the six-inning outing.
"That says a lot about Kluber," Indians center fielder Rajai Davis said. "He was solid the rest of the innings that he pitched. It was unfortunate that it had to turn out this way for him, but this is the game of baseball, and sometimes we don't have control over these things."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Matz rebounds: Coming off the shortest -- and certainly the worst -- start of his nascent big league career, Matz transformed into a different pitcher in Cleveland. Striking out three of the first four batters he faced, the rookie worked around a two-out Indians rally in the second and a Francisco Lindor leadoff double in the fourth, en route to seven shutout innings. He finished with a career-high nine punchouts, gutting his ERA from 37.80 to 7.27.
"I just think it was attacking the hitters, not pitching scared, trusting my stuff," Matz said. "I was trusting that I could miss with a pitch, and they'll still be able to get themselves out." More >
Rough start: A leadoff walk to Granderson in the opening inning set a bad tone for Kluber, who then allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera and an RBI double to Michael Conforto. Two batters and one mound visit later, Cleveland's ace gave up a two-run single to Lucas Duda to give the Mets a quick 3-0 lead. That advantage would soon double in light of some defensive issues in the second inning, which included a second RBI two-base hit from Conforto.
"Walking the leadoff guy is never good to start a game," Kluber said. "But we got a rollover ground ball from Cabby that just found a hole. I just didn't make a good pitch to Conforto or Duda. They both drove in runs with them."
Sun-day drive: Kluber was not at his best, but the sun did him no favors in the second inning. First, Davis lost track of a deep fly off the bat of Granderson, who wound up with a triple. Later, Davis shielded himself as a fly ball from Cespedes dropped to the grass in center for an RBI double. Both plays contributed to New York's second straight three-run outburst, putting the Indians in a 6-0 hole through two innings.
"Obviously the sun helped a couple times, but they were big," Collins said. "RBIs are key, and two-out RBIs are enormous. You win a lot of games with those." More >
QUOTABLE "We knew we had come in off a tough game, but once he got through the order and we didn't do anything, you could see him kind of loosen up and start to throw his breaking ball, changeup, everything for strikes, because he's got velocity and he throws it down hill. But then he started getting comfortable, and you could tell. That's a lot of times what happens with good pitchers." -- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Matz
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Despite coming into the season as the Mets' fifth outfielder, Alejandro De Aza leads the team in games played; he's appeared in all 11. With Cespedes nursing a sore knee as the designated hitter, De Aza started three straight games in Cleveland in center.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets:Noah Syndergaard will look to keep rolling as the Mets travel to Philadelphia for the first of three games on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park. All Syndergaard has done is strike out 21 batters and allow one run over his first two starts, spanning 13 innings. He's a good bet to reclaim MLB's strikeout lead against the Phillies, who will counter with right-hander Jerad Eickhoff.
Indians: Following a scheduled off-day on Monday, the Indians open a three-game series against the Mariners with a 6:10 p.m. ET tilt on Tuesday at Progressive Field. Right-handerCarlos Carrasco (1-0, 3.46 ERA) is slated to start for Cleveland. In his last outing, Carrasco struck out eight, walked one and allowed one run over eight innings against the Rays.