The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club is known for its pitching. From Tom Seaver to Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden to David Cone, Johan Santana to R.A. Dickey, the Mets franchise is defined by its starters. Surprisingly (to everyone else but not so to their fans), it took the Mets over 50 years to record a no-hitter, when Johan became No-Han last June 1. Seaver was foiled by Jimmy Qualls in 1969 and two more times over his Mets career. Gary Gentry took no-hitters past the fifth twice in the 1970s. The knuckler Dickey tossed three one-hitters over his brief time in New York, including back-to-back gems in the middle of his Cy Young season. In baseball, nothing is guaranteed, but if fans had to bet on anyone to join Santana in the Mets no-hitter club, they would be wise to bet on Matt Harvey, who thrice in 2013 took no-nos past the sixth inning. Today’s Amazin’ Ten entry is the story of his best of 2013.
#7 – Harvey Nearly Perfect, Baxter Walks Off (May 7)
The Mets were not only struggling to win games, they were struggling to even play. Rain and scheduling had allowed New York to play just three games over their previous six days. They had gone 2-1 over that span but were still far below .500 at 12-16. Now they were faced with an even more foreign situation, as the Mets would play host to the Chicago White Sox, an American League foe they had never seen in Flushing before. Their ambassador for the night was Matt Harvey, who was working on some extra rest (try eight days). The big question was would he be rested or rusty? The consensus at the end of the night was rested.
Harvey’s worst enemy until the seventh inning was his own bloody nose. Certainly he got no trouble from the South Siders. 1-2-3 in the first inning. 1-2-3 in the second. And on, and on, and on, and on, until Matt had himself seven strikeouts in six perfect innings.
The excitement at Citi Field was palpable – it was not even a month before that Harvey found himself flirting with history. His no-hit bid in Minnesota on April 13 was broken up with two outs in the seventh inning; could he take it farther this time? Could he take it all the way?
Batter #19 was Alejandro De Aza, who Harvey sat down with a blazing fastball. Batter #20 was Jeff Keppinger, who grounded out to Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Batter #21 was Alex Rios, who hit a pathetic little dribbler in the no-man’s land between Tejada and David Wright. Ruben charged it, exerting his full effort to somehow get the ball over to first base, and he did. One step too late. Rios was on with a single, and the perfect game was gone. With two outs in the seventh inning. Again.
But Harvey was unflappable, striking out Adam Dunn to finish the frame. He would force another 1-2-3 inning in the eighth and set a personal record with his 12th strikeout to finish off the ninth. The Real Deal had channeled Tom Terrific, facing 28 batters in nine innings, even striking out more than Seaver did on that famous July 9, 1969 outing.
Except Tom Seaver was credited with the W on that day. Matt Harvey on May 7, 2013? Not so much. No, the New York bats were just as ineffective against White Sox starter Hector Santiago, who struck out eight in seven shutout innings. Strong relief efforts from Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones kept the Mets off the board and sent the scoreless tie into extra innings.
With only 105 pitches to his credit Harvey probably still had an ounce or two left for the night, but Bobby Parnell came on for the 10th and promptly sat Keppinger, Rios, and Dunn down 1-2-3, the latter two outs coming by way of the K. Ike Davis led off the bottom of the frame with a walk off Jones and went to second on Juan Lagares’s sac bunt. That brought up pinch-hitter Mike Baxter, the Whitestone Kid who sacrificed his body so that there would be a NoHan. The no-hitter and W were out of the question for Harvey, but Baxter wasn’t going to let this memorable night slip completely away. Our good friend Baxter here laced a hard grounder to the corner in right for a walk-off double, and the Mets had themselves a memorable 1-0 extra-inning victory.
Mike Baxter had himself a pretty good week that week: two days later he would walk off once again, this time on a ninth-inning single against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Baxter, the good times wouldn’t last. As the Mets bottomed out in mid-June, he found himself on a plane to Las Vegas, sent down to the minors almost anonymously (Ike Davis was demoted the same day and was presumably on the same plane). He was recalled to Flushing after David Wright’s injury in August but was sent back out west three weeks later to make room for Lucas Duda. He made sporadic appearances for the Mets in September but was largely ineffective, hitting just .129 with one double in 31 at-bats. This offseason, Mike Baxter went west for good as he was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He may be gone, but the Whitestone Kid will never be forgotten by his fans, hometown and beyond.
As for Harvey, the bitter disappointment of a missed no-hitter became less bitter the second time. It would become all too familiar later in the season when he took another gem past the sixth inning. But that story is for another day.
May 7: the 7th most Amazin’ Game of 2013. Come Monday we’ll take you through yet another memorable Harvey Day.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#8 – Wright is Clutch, Valdespin is Grand (April 24)
#7 – Harvey Nearly Perfect, Baxter Walks Off (May 7)