One of the few bright spots for the Mets in 2012 was the arrival of Matt Harvey. While his offense rarely got behind him (or anyone for that matter), Harvey dazzled New York gave New York fans chills over the thought of what could (will?) be. Our next stop on the Amazin’ Ten countdown takes us to the magical night when this face-of-the-franchise-to-be made like Tiger Woods and said, “Hello, world.”
#4 – Matt Harvey’s Debut (July 26)
With July injuries to Dillon Gee, Miguel Batista, and Johan Santana, the Mets were up Pitchers’ Creek without a paddle, or any arms to paddle with. The team had avoided the matter for as long as it could, but there could be no more delay: Matt Harvey would have to join the rotation. Harvey was having an okay year full-time in Triple-A Buffalo, but there were concerns about the number of walks he was giving up. Some in the organization really didn’t think he was ready for the big ball club yet, but they were going to find out whether they liked it or not.
At this point in the season, the Mets weren’t just in need of someone to plug the dyke with his finger: they needed a whole new dyke. They had lost 11 of 12 since the All-Star Break and were just starting their dreaded West Coast road trip, the same swing that had sunk the team the past two seasons. So the best the Mets could do at this point was to enter Phoenix for a four-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks and say, “Hey, can’t sink what’s already sunk,” and hope Harvey could be the man to get the ship back a-floatin’. On this night, it looked like he just might.
The Mets did the best they could to make their newest cast member feel comfortable on his opening night: back-to-back leadoff singles from Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy set up Scott Hairston for a two-run double soon after. So #33 made his first trot to a major league mound with a 2-0 cushion, which was far more than some of his more experienced teammates were getting lately. It helped: Harvey struck out the first man he faced, Gerardo Parra, on four pitches. He got Aaron Hill to fly out, then after Jason Kubel singled (there goes the career no-hitter), Harvey got into a battle with Paul Goldschmidt. Three fastballs and a slider produced a 2-2 count, upon which Harvey froze him with a 96 mph laser to end the inning. Good start.
After two quick outs to start the top of the 2nd, Harvey was up for his first major league at-bat. Most Mets fans were expecting (and probably rooting) for him to just stand there and take a quick strikeout; no use derailing the future just for a cheap pitcher’s hit. But on a 1-2 curveball from the D-Backs’ Wade Miley, Harvey surprised everyone at Chase Field by blasting a line drive over the outstretched glove of Parra, all the way to the wall in center. Two strikeouts in his first inning, a two-base hit in his first at-bat? All systems go for Matt Harvey.
Harvey’s bottom of the 2nd included a Miguel Montero double, but it was sandwiched between two more strikeouts, and Ryan Wheeler would pop out to end the threat. In the 3rd, a one-out strikeout of Parra was marred by a wild pitch that put him on first base. A single put two men on with still one out. Harvey buckled down to gun down Kubel, but wildness struck again and the runners went to second and third. After a seven-pitch battle, Harvey’s eighth delivery was familiar medicine to Paul Goldschmidt: a blazing 97er that stood him still as a statue. Harvey was out of another jam and the Mets still had a lead.
New York would pick up some insurance in the 4th when Andres Torres tripled and Rob Johnson sacrificed him in. Harvey was up to bat again, and this time fans were sure he couldn’t match the thrill of his first at bat. We’ve been wrong before: Harvey took another 2-2 fastball from Miley and sliced a hard groundball up the middle for a base hit. Two hits in a pitcher’s first two at-bats…sure he shouldn’t be an outfielder instead? His 4th was smudged only by a walk and his 5th was spotless, shined up with two more Ks. Quite sure, thank you very much.
The bottom of the 6th was when things started getting iffy. Kubel led off with a five-pitch walk, but Goldschmidt got some more of that hot medicine, this time in the swinging variety. An eight-pitch battle with Justin Upton resulted in another walk and a 106th pitch. Terry Collins, with another recent high pitch count already in the back of his mind, wasted no time in relieving his valuable, young arm from his first exhibition. With a standing ovation from his parents, the few Mets fans amongst the 22,010 in attendance, and millions of others watching on SNY or listening on WFAN, Matt Harvey exited his major-league debut with a final line of 5.1 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, and 11 strikeouts. The 11 debut Ks were a Mets club record, and he became the first pitcher in modern baseball history to record 10+ strikeouts and get two hits in his major league debut.
The rest of the game was an afterthought: Harvey’s 2010 draftmate Josh Edgin got through the jam in the 6th, then a few innings later after making fans familiarly queasy in the 9th, Bobby Parnell nailed down the 3-1 win to put a bright, shiny “W” on top of the Matt-mas tree.
It was a dazzling debut, but Matt Harvey would continue to dazzle Mets fans for the rest of his 10 starts, finishing with a 2.73 ERA (the same as R.A. Dickey’s), 1.146 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. Unfortunately for him, the bats behind him could only produce so often, giving him just a 3-5 record to show for it. The saddest of all these missed Ws came in Harvey’s last start of the year on September 19 when a leadoff homer to Jimmy Rollins was the only hit he would give the Phillies in seven Amazin’ innings. A strike away from the win, Edgin would walk Chase Utley and serve up a monstrous home run to Ryan Howard to turn a 2-1 win in to a crushing 3-2 loss.
There’s nothing Harvey can do about the offense, but he doesn’t need to: if he keeps pitching like he did for the big club in 2012, he’ll give his team the chance to win every time out. Mets fans should be licking their chops at the thought of 15 years with Matt Harvey anchoring the staff, and if he keeps it up, he’ll become the biggest Harvey since the 1950s…and certainly the least furry.
July 26. The fourth most Amazin’ game of 2012. Later this week you’ll find #3 on our countdown.
Amazin’ Ten of 2012
#4 – Matt Harvey’s Debut (July 26)