Steven Matz’s pitch count a worry as Mets’ starter flirted with no-hitter

NEW YORK — Steven Matz flirted with throwing the second no-hitter in New York Mets history on Sunday.

The flirtation ended with one out in the eighth inning –- and Matz five outs away –- as San Diego’s Alexei Ramirez singled over the first base bag. Umpire Carlos Torres immediately signaled it a fair ball as the crowd of 26,612 at Citi Field groaned.

Addison Reed and Gabriel Ynoa came on to record the final five outs of the 5-1 victory. The Mets have two straight wins for the first time since July 6 and 7.

During his last start, Matz threw a career-high 120 pitches in a loss at Arizona. Manager Terry Collins said that Matz had thanked him afterwards because, as Collins put it, “he said he needed to be stretched out.”

Of course, that left the question of whether Collins would be willing to follow that with another long outing. And as Matz finished the seventh at 95 pitches, it was looking like an issue. Collins took Matz out of the game immediately after Ramirez’s hit on Matz’s 105th pitch.

Matz exited to a raucous ovation and finished with two walks and eight strikeouts.

Johan Santana owns the Mets’ only no-hitter, on June 1, 2012. San Diego has been the victim of a no-hitter 10 times in franchise history.

Wilmer Flores broke a scoreless tie in the second inning with his 12th home run, a solo shot to left field. Neil Walker‘s 21st home run made it 2-0 in the fourth inning.

After Matz came out of the game, the Mets put up a three-run eighth. Jose Reyes singled, stole second and took third when Norris’ throw skipped into center field and scored the first on a wild pitch. Recent call-up T.J. Rivera plated the other two with a double for his first two career RBI.

The Mets have now followed four straight losses with a pair of wins. They stand two games out for the second NL wild card spot with the St. Louis Cardinals playing the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night.

Matz issued his first walk right out of the gate. Travis Jankowski drew a five-pitch leadoff walk in the first. Matz was charged with a balk that moved him to second. But he was out of the inning moments later as Wil Myers struck out, Jankowski was thrown out stealing third and Yangervis Solarte struck out.

The other walk was to Padres catcher Derek Norris to start the sixth. The Padres couldn’t get the runner to second, but Matz needed to throw 20 pitches to get a pair of force outs and a strikeout.

Matz opened the season 7-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his first eight starts. Over the following nine he did not record a win, saw his ERA rise by more than a run and was diagnosed with a bone chip in his elbow after feeling discomfort.

Assured by doctors that he cannot do further damage, Matz is pitching through the season with occasional anti-inflammatory injections. He has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts.

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