3/24/2014 4:20 P.M. ET
Matsuzaka allows one run in bid for rotation
Right-hander gives up three hits in six-plus innings with fifth spot up for grabs
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With Jenrry Mejia bearing down on him, Daisuke Matsuzaka needed a strong start on Monday to quiet his skeptics and lock down a rotation spot.
Something like this should suffice. Matsuzaka blanked the reigning National League-champion Cardinals into the seventh, leading the Mets to a 5-3 win at Tradition Field.
"I went up there knowing this would be my last chance to show what I can do," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "I think I've done pretty much everything I can and showed what I can do out there. The decision is up to them now, and we'll see what happens."
A day after Mejia lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 2.89 with five strong innings, Matsuzaka was just as impressive; he scattered three hits and three walks over six-plus innings, leaving after hitting the first batter in the seventh, who later scored. The outing lowered his spring ERA to 3.86, with 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
Per terms of Matsuzaka's contract, the Mets must inform him by Tuesday whether he has made the Opening Day roster.
The Mets did all their damage against Cardinals starter Shelby Miller in the third. After Ruben Tejada and Eric Young, Jr. sparked the rally with a leadoff walk and a bunt single, Daniel Murphy's double plated both of them. David Wright then moved Murphy to third base with a groundout, and Curtis Granderson scored him with a sacrifice fly.
Miller worked five innings, striking out four, walking three and allowing three hits. Insurance runs came for the Mets on Travis d'Arnaud's RBI single in the sixth and Omar Quintanilla's run-scoring knock in the seventh.
Playing in his second consecutive game after missing a week with right calf soreness, Murphy finished 2-for-3. The Mets fielded a lineup resembling the one they will use on Opening Day, albeit with Lucas Duda playing first base instead of Ike Davis. The Mets also batted their pitcher eighth for the second time this spring.
The Mets were cruising to victory until Vic Black relieved Matsuzaka with no outs and a man on first in the seventh. Black faced three batters and did not retire any of them, plunking one, throwing a wild pitch and allowing three runs (one inherited). So successful down the stretch last summer, Black now sports a 6.75 spring ERA with more walks (nine) than innings pitched (eight).
"I like to think back to my two previous springs, and they were bumpy and rocky," Black said. "There's just something about games in-season that get me to click. I'm not relying on that, because they still need to see that I can go out and compete and perform. But right now, I'll just get another outing and go from there."
Up next for the Mets: Zack Wheeler will make his final spring start on Tuesday against the Nationals in Viera, Fla. Wheeler is lined up to pitch the third game of the regular season on April 3 against the Nationals, but with nine days between Tuesday's outing and that one, he will likely need to tune-up in a Minor League game in between. The Mets will face Stephen Strasburg in Tuesday's 1:05 p.m. ET game, which will be available on MLB.TV .