Most of the excitement of the 2013 Mets season came from Matt Harvey, who dazzled fans with quality start after quality start. This is the first of many Amazin’ Ten moments that involve the Real Deal, but unlike the others, this one will highlight a night that Harvey proved to be mortal but was picked up by his teammates.
#8 – Wright is Clutch, Valdespin is Grand (April 24)
The Mets had just dropped a home opener to the pre-Yasiel Puig Los Angeles Dodgers after taking two of three from the Nationals over the weekend. On the mound for the New Yorkers was young Matt Harvey, who had not just won his first four starts of the season but had thoroughly dominated his opposition, sporting a 0.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 29 innings.
But things started out rocky for the young right-hander, as Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez got aboard with back-to-back one-out singles in the top of the first. Matt Kemp’s fielder’s choice brought home L.A.’s first run of the day, and all of a sudden the Mets were in a hole. A shallow hole, as Harvey would strike out Andre Ethier to end the threat, but an unexpected hole at that.
It would take New York until the fifth inning to get something off of Dodger starter Ted Lilly, who was making his first start of the season. Looking to do it all on his own, Harvey belted a leadoff double on the first pitch he saw and came in soon after on Ruben Tejada’s RBI single. The Mets looked to get more as Daniel Murphy’s single put two runners on for the heart of the order, but David Wright, John Buck, and Ike Davis failed to get the runs home, and Harvey had to settle for a 1-1 tie.
But it wouldn’t stay tied for long: after Gonzalez worked a two-out walk in the top of the sixth, Matt Kemp got ahold of a 2-0 Harvey fastball and launched it towards the right field corner. After initially being ruled as a triple, the umpires saw the ball left the yard before coming back in, and the former MVP contender was awarded his first home run of the young season. All of a sudden, the Mets were down 3-1, and Matt Harvey had his first weak moment of 2013.
New York got one back in the bottom of the frame – Marlon Byrd and Lucas Duda led off with walks and advanced a base on Juan Lagares’s groundout. Justin Turner came on to pinch-hit for Harvey and delivered a sac fly to center.
Thanks to solid relief pitching from LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice, the game stayed 3-2 all the way to the bottom of the ninth when Mike Baxter led off with a double off Brandon League. Tejada’s sac bunt put the tying run 90 feet from home, but Murphy’s weak foul popup threatened to extinguish the flame. Enter the Captain, David Wright, who threw some wood on the fire. Wright lined a single to right on League’s first pitch, and the Mets had drawn even. David was caught stealing second to end the inning, but New York would live on in extras.
Bobby Parnell let a man get to second in the top of the tenth but got out of trouble by striking out Carl Crawford and retiring Skip Schumaker on a groundout. John Buck led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center, and Ike Davis drew a walk to put the winning run in scoring position. Byrd bunted the runners up a base, and Lucas Duda was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Up came Jordany Valdespin, who made himself known the year before for striking it big in clutch situations. He did not disappoint, sending a long flyball to right field. The hit would win the Mets the game, but the distance would decide the final margin. As it settled into the netting over the right field stands (and as Jordany was allowed to round the bases), that margin was decided at four. Valdespin leaped home to complete both the Mets’ first walk-off grand slam since Kevin McReynolds in 1991 and the dramatic 7-3 victory. The celebration continued with a pie in the face from Buck, who performed the job with such…shall we say “gusto,” that he almost broke his teammate’s nose.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan who implored Terry Collins to give Jordany Valdespin more playing time in the aftermath of this game – we had found our sparkplug again! Unfortunately for the Mets, the spark was followed by a short circuit, as the team lost its last six games in April, falling from 10-9 to 10-15 by the end of the month. New York would not sport a winning record for the rest of the season. As for JV1, it wouldn’t get any better for him or his teammates. But his .143 average and .476 OPS in his next 99 plate appearances don’t adequately tell the story; no, you could pick that up from the mid-May Pirates incident. Or the outburst at TC following his mid-July demotion. Or the brawl he instigated in Triple-A Las Vegas shortly after. Or the 50-game Biogenesis suspension. And I think you’ll see that and know all you need to know about Jordany Valdespin, the sparkplug who turned into an electrical fire.
Matt Harvey, meanwhile, got his first no-decision of the year but remained undefeated; he would not lose a start until June 13. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t win that many either – he would go 1-0 in his next nine starts despite the 2.66 ERA and 63 strikeouts. No, Harvey would find Ws hard to come by in 2013, but every time he took the mound, Mets fans had the potential to see something special. Just like in our next game.
April 24: the 8th most Amazin’ game of 2013. Come Friday and we’ll visit another Harvey Day that became pretty Amazin’.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#8 – Wright is Clutch, Valdespin is Grand (April 24)