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Chris Mazza waited for the rain to stop. Then, his decades-long wait would be over.
Replacing starter Steven Matz after a 70-minute rain delay at Citi Field, Mazza made a strong major league debut in a 5-4 loss to the Braves, as the 29-year-old threw four innings, and was in line for Saturday’s win, before the Mets’ latest late-inning collapse extended their losing streak to seven.
Following an emotional call-up Wednesday, and three games spent watching from the bullpen, Mazza entered at the start of the third inning and allowed one run and five hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
“For it to finally get here was amazing,” Mazza said. “It was a dream come true. I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.”
Mazza, a former 27th-round pick, had labored in the minors since 2012 — also appearing in independent leagues — bouncing around the farm systems of the Twins, Marlins and Mariners. The Mets selected him in December’s Rule 5 Draft, starting him at Double-A Binghamton then promoting him to Triple-A Syracuse.
Mets can’t even win one for the 1969 miracle team
With the Mets trailing 2-0 in Saturday’s second inning, the rain began to fall. When the tarp was introduced, the rookie knew his long-awaited moment might be on deck.
“When you’re in the position I’m at, they’re gonna use me as long relief, [so] once that tarp goes on, you have it in the back of your head and you gotta start getting ready just in case,” Mazza said.
The moment looked nothing like Mazza long envisioned. The right-hander’s second pitch resulted in a Ronald Acuna Jr. single. His third pitch became a Dansby Swanson RBI double.
“Two hits right away, not how I planned,” Mazza said. “I think [there was] a little bit of nerves and everything, and then once that went away … now it’s time to compete.”
Briefly looking like the team’s latest lackluster option out of the bullpen, Mazza instead became the first Mets pitcher to throw at least four innings and allow no more than one run in his debut since Jacob deGrom (May 2014).
In the bottom of the fourth, Mazza briefly felt the wrath of the boo-happy crowd when he popped up a bunt, but the California native — whose parents and girlfriend were in attendance — quickly won back the affection of the crowd.
One moment to forget all the Mets agony
In the fifth, Mazza surrendered a one-out double to Acuna, but kept the Mets within one by retiring Swanson and Freeman. With two out and two aboard in the sixth, Tyler Flowers hit a pop-up in foul territory, sending Mazza sprinting towards the dugout, diving for the ball. He failed to secure the out but received enthusiastic applause from the crowd for his effort. Three pitches later, Mazza was screaming, fired up after recording an inning-ending strikeout.
“That’s just instinct, being as competitive as I am. I try to get everything I can,” Mazza said. “I fell a little short on it, but in the long run it felt really good to get that strikeout.”
Mazza, who threw 62 pitches (40 strikes), inched towards his first win when the Mets scored a pair in the bottom of the sixth, but Seth Lugo blew up again in the eighth, giving away the lead via back-to-back solo homers.
“He pitched good enough to get the win,” Mickey Callaway said of Mazza. “He did a great job. He was very impressive, so it’s a positive to take out of tonight. It was a good pitch mix, he went through some pretty good hitters and did a great job.”