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Mets' Matz looks to bounce back vs. A's

NEW YORK -- The last time the New York Mets took the field with an opportunity to win three straight games, it was a disaster -- especially for Steven Matz.

Matz will look to rebound from the worst start of his career and the Mets will attempt to get a third straight victory Friday night in the opener of a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics.

The left-hander is 2/3 with a 4.58 ERA in his first seven starts since missing the first two months recovering from left elbow inflammation. On Sunday, after the Mets scored 23 runs in consecutive victories over the Colorado Rockies, he allowed seven runs and nine hits in one-plus inning of a 13-4 loss.

Matz's last two starts have been difficult for him. Before his shortest outing of his career, Matz allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-0 loss at St. Louis on July 9.

"I feel like I wasn't really sharp today," Matz said. "I was leaving balls right over the middle of the plate and they were hitting it."

Matz was chased after allowing the first four batters to reach in the second and turned in the shortest start by a Met this season.

"I don't care how good your stuff is," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You can't do that in this league."

The struggles against Colorado also continued a trend of Matz faltering in the first three innings.

In the first three innings, he has a 7.11 ERA and hitters are batting .321. In innings four through seven, Matz has a 2.21 ERA and hitters are batting .213.

Matz is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four career interleague starts and will attempt to give the Mets their first three-game winning streak since getting four straight victories June 28 to July 1.

Those wins gave the Mets a 38-42 record; but, starting with a 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2, New York is 5-8 in its last 13 games.

New York comes into the series off a split against St. Louis. The Mets were outscored 11-3 in the first two games but followed up a 7-3 victory Wednesday with a 3-2 win Thursday when Jose Reyes hit a walk-off infield single with two outs in the ninth inning.

"We need one," Collins said. "We've had a lot of them slip away lately and we needed a win like this today."

Friday might mark the final home series for some Mets -- notably Addison Reed, Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce -- whose names are mentioned in trade speculation as the non-waiver deadline approaches July 31.

Duda homered Thursday while Bruce was given the day off.

"I don't know what they think, what goes on in their mind," Collins said earlier this week. "All I can tell you is what my approach has been to them, and that is you can't worry about if your name's mentioned or if it's not mentioned or anything else. You can't worry about possible callups. You can't worry about where you're going to be tomorrow. You're here today. You've got to worry about today."

Oakland (43-52) already began selling off pieces Sunday when it traded relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Washington Nationals. The A's are starting a seven-game trip before facing the Minnesota Twins next weekend at home and it is possible Yonder Alonso and Sonny Gray might get traded between now and then.

Alonso had two hits and Gray allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings Wednesday in a 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Oakland has begun the second half by winning four of its first six games and is 8-4 in its last 12 contests.

"I try not to think too much about that because when you have a group of guys that you're dealing with, that's basically what your focus is," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

Paul Blackburn will make his fourth start and looks to maintain the success of his first three after starting his career 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA. Blackburn took a no-decision Saturday in a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians when he allowed three runs and five hits in six innings.

Blackburn will be making his second interleague start. He opposed the Atlanta Braves in his major league debut July 1 and allowed one run (unearned) and three hits in six innings.

In his second start, he induced 14 ground-ball outs in a win over the Seattle Mariners, who traded him to Oakland in the offseason for Danny Valencia.

"Everything was working for him," A's catcher Bruce Maxwell said of Blackburn's start against the Mariners. "He's a bulldog on the mound. He made pitches the whole night. That's his game. He doesn't throw 98 (mph), but he keeps hitters off balance."

The Mets are 8-5 all-time against Oakland, including 6-2 in New York. The last meeting was June 25, 2014, when Cespedes drove in three runs in Oakland's 8-5 victory in New York.

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