On Friday evening, a week’s worth of hype and ballyhoo met their makers. The highly anticipated showdown featuring Washington’s Stephen Strasburg versus Matt Harvey finally took place before a slightly chilled and anxiety riddled crowd at Citi Field.
As the home team, Matt Harvey climbed the hill first. His initial pitch of the game was a ninety-six mile an hour fastball to Denard Span for strike one. His second pitch was a curveball that dropped in for strike two. Matt Harvey’s third pitch to Span was a high heater, a ninety-nine mile per hour fastball, swung through for strike three. After following that up by issuing his first walk of the game, Harvey retired the next two batters in order.
In the bottom of the first, lead-off batter Jordany Valdespin reached safely when shortstop Ian Desmond booted his ground ball. A single by Daniel Murphy sent Jordany to third. Stephen Strasburg then uncorked a wild pitch allowing Valdespin to score the first run of the game, while also allowing Murphy advancement to second base. Then with two outs, catcher John Buck delivered an early big hit – a crisp single to left sending Murphy home for a 2-0 Mets lead.
After two innings, Matt Harvey had three strikeouts, and allowed the one walk. Pitching in the third inning, of all people, Washington’s starting pitcher secured the first Nationals hit of the evening. Stephen Strasburg was stranded on second base however, when Matt Harvey snapped off a curveball that caught Jayson Werth looking at strike three to end the inning.
Stephen Strasburg labored initially. Through his first 2.1 innings of work, he surrendered three hits, walked one batter, and struck out three. Then with one out in the third, Strasburg struck out Ike Davis swinging. John Buck followed, but this time the Mets hot hitting catcher was caught looking at strike three from Strasburg.
In the top of the fifth, Washington remained stuck on one hit. Matt Harvey retired the Nationals in order, while striking out his sixth batter of the night. In the bottom of the frame, Stephen Strasburg appeared settled in, and retired his sixth Mets batter in a row. Through the top of the sixth inning, Matt Harvey had retired seven consecutive batters of his own.
Entering the home sixth inning, Ike Davis was hitless in two times up, striking out both times against Strasburg. Leading off, Ike deposited the first pitch he saw from Strasburg, a fastball over the middle of the plate, into the left field seats. Lucas Duda followed next, and promptly deposited another fastball offering from Strasburg that also caught too much plate, into the right-center field stands for back-to-back round-trippers, and a 4-0 Mets lead. About then, the once nervous, yet optimistic crowd grew resoundingly confident, and burst into thunderous chants of “HARVEY’S BETTER! - HARVEY’S BETTER!”
After six innings, 111 pitches, and no real breaking ball to speak of, Stephen Strasburg’s night was through. He allowed four runs, but only home runs by Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were earned. Strasburg surrendered five hits in all, walked two, and struck out six en route to his third loss of the season.
Matt Harvey returned to the hill for the seventh inning. Adam LaRoche drew a lead-off walk. Then consecutive singles by Ian Desmond and Chad Tracy yielded Washington’s first and only run of the evening. After a throwing error by Daniel Murphy, Matt Harvey found himself in a bases loaded situation with no outs. Terry Collins however, made no move. The manager’s confidence paid off. Harvey struck out Kurt Suzuki on a nasty slider for out number one. While still exhibiting a 96-mph fastball, Matt then induced pinch hitter Roger Bernadina to pop-up foul to catcher John Buck for out number two. Denard Span then bounced weakly to Daniel Murphy for out number three.
As Matt Harvey walked off the mound heading towards the Mets dugout, the crowd rose and showered him with rousing applause and appreciation for a job very well done. In Matt Harvey’s fourteenth career start, he pitched seven full innings, and threw 105 pitches, allowing one run on only four hits. He walked three batters, and struck out seven.
Scott Rice pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and struck out one batter. Bobby Parnell was then summoned from the pen to pitch the ninth. In pitching a scoreless inning, he preserved Matt Harvey’s fourth victory of the season, in four starts. The Mets twenty-five year old ace in the making still maintains a low 0.93 earned run average in this young season.
For Washington, Zach Duke gave Coach Johnson one inning of scoreless relief in the seventh. Next, and last out of the Nationals bullpen, Drew Storen was tasked with the eighth. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda greeted the second Nats reliever by repeating their sixth inning exploits. The Mets lefty sluggers hit back-to-back home runs again, to ultimately give the Mets a 7-1 victory.
On this night, Matt Harvey’s game was predicated on high heat. Early in the game, that was his weapon of choice. He might have thrown three or four curveballs all night. And when he did, like in the first, third, and sixth innings, they were dandies. Otherwise, if Matt wasn’t climbing the ladder with ninety-five mile an hour fastballs, his slider was biting, albeit, not his best. He used it more and more as the game wore on, and ultimately used the pitch to escape the greatest threat mounted against him in the seventh.
Look out John Buck. Lucas Duda is coming on. With his two knock outburst this evening, the Duda now has five home runs this season. Ike Davis has three home runs. John Buck still leads the team with six. All four of Friday’s home runs were of the very long distance variety. Stephen Strasburg had only surrendered one home run before Ike and Lucas Duda went back-to-back in the sixth.
Lucas Duda has broken the .300 barrier. He is now batting .308 this season, and as mentioned has five home runs with eight runs batted in. The Duda holds the team lead with twelve walks, and a .491 on-base percentage. He additionally leads the team with a .744 slugging average, and is number one with a 1.234 OPS.
Tonight’s Pitchers – Matt Harvey and Scott Rice own the pitching staff’s top two ERA’s. Matt Harvey is at 0.93 as a starter, while Scott Rice sports a 1.13 ERA as a reliever. Bobby Parnell is third in with a 1.39 ERA.
Entering the game, Matt Harvey was already enjoying several statistical advantages over Strasburg. But of course, this early on that means little. Of paramount importance however, not only was Matt Harvey being asked to continue his early season dominance, but was also being tasked with thawing the Mets from their deep freeze suffered in the arctic tundras of Coors Field and Minnesota. That said, Matt Harvey wins the much anticipated early season showdown against a top division contemporary in convincing fashion, and the crowd of 26, 675 loved it.