Steven Matz stellar on the mound — and at the plate — in his major league debut for the Mets

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Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz, making his major league debut against the Reds on Sunday, allowed a solo home run to Brandon Phillips to lead off the ballgame. It was all uphill from there.

Matz wound up going 7 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts on 110 pitches. As impressive as that was, it was what he did at the plate that truly won hearts and minds. The rookie went 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the second inning and added a two-run single in the sixth. He is the first pitcher in major league history to drive in four runs in his debut, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The Mets scored seven runs overall, the first time they’d scored more than four in a game since June 14. In fact, they had been held to two or fewer runs in each of their last seven games coming into play Sunday (including the conclusion of Saturday’s game which was postponed and resumed prior to Matz’s debut). Only four Mets hitters have accrued four-plus RBI in a game this season: Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy, and Curtis Granderson. Duda was the last to do it, on May 21. The Mets have seen only 24 three-hit games this season and just one between June 15 and Sunday: Curtis Granderson on June 25 against the Brewers.

Matz, 24, entered the season rated as baseball’s 33rd-best prospect overall by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. In 14 starts and one relief appearance with Triple-A Las Vegas — a notoriously pitcher-unfriendly environment — Matz posted a 2.19 ERA with a 94/31 K/BB ratio in 90 1/3 innings.

Indians send down Clevinger, Plesac after virus blunder

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — After hearing Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac explain their actions, the Cleveland Indians sent the pitchers to their alternate training site on Friday after the two broke team rules and Major League Baseball coronavirus protocol last weekend in Chicago.

Clevinger and Plesac drove to Detroit separately with their baseball equipment on Thursday for an “open forum” meeting at the team’s hotel before the Indians opened a series with the Tigers.

Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti said following “the discussion” that he met with manager Terry Francona, general manager Mike Chernoff and decided it was best to option Plesac and Clevinger to the alternate training site instead of allowing them to rejoin the team.

“We had a chance to meet as small group and decided this would be the best path of action for us,” Antonetti said.

So before the opener, the Indians activated Clevinger and Plesac from the restricted list and optioned them to Lake County.

It’s a stunning slide for the right-handers and close friends, both considered important pieces for the Indians. There’s no indication when they may be back on Cleveland’s roster. They’ll have to be at Lake County for at least 10 days.

Last weekend, the pitchers broke the team’s code of conduct implemented during the pandemic by leaving the team hotel and having dinner and socializing with friends of Plesac’s and risking contracting the virus.

While the Indians got a car service to take Plesac back to Cleveland, Clevinger flew home with the team after not telling the Indians he had been out with his teammate.

Although both players have twice tested negative for COVID-19 this week, the Indians aren’t ready to have them back.

Earlier this week, pitcher Adam Plutko said he felt betrayed.

“They hurt us bad,” Plutko said after Cleveland’s lost 7-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. “They lied to us. They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on.”

Antonetti was asked if there are still hard feeling in the clubhouse toward the pair.

“We’re all a family,” Antonetti said. “We spend a lot of time together. Sometimes there are challenges in families you have to work through. I’d use that analogy as it applies here. There are things that have happened over the course of the last week that have been less than ideal and people have some thoughts and feelings about that.”

Both Clevinger and Plesac issued apologies in the days after their missteps. However, on Thursday, the 25-year-old Plesac posted a six-minute video on Instagram in which he acknowledged breaking team curfew but then aimed blame at the media, saying he and Clevinger were being inaccurately portrayed as “bad people.”

Antonetti said he watched the video.

“I’m not sure Zach was able to convey what he intended to convey in the video after having a chance to speak with him afterwards,” he said. “I think if he had a do-over, he may have said things a bit differently.”

Francona also felt Plesac could have chosen a better way to handle the aftermath.

“I was disappointed,” he said.