When the 2013 New York Mets season began, Matt Harvey was the team’s #2 starter, missing out on the top spot to the more-established Jonathon Niese. Great things were expected of Harvey in the future, even the near future, but he did not start out the season as the team’s bona-fide ace. That took until his fourth start, the Mets’ 15th outing, and the next came on our Amazin’ Ten countdown.
#4 – Harvey’s Better (April 19)
After surviving one of the colder circles of Dante’s Inferno in the form of April in Minnesota and Colorado, the Mets returned to New York in time for the start of a weekend series with the struggling presumptive division favorites, the Washington Nationals. If the team needed any help thawing out after its previous week, it got all the heat it needed in the form of what was destined to become the pitching matchup that would define the next generation in the National League East: New York’s Matt Harvey and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. After enduring a season of close supervision in 2012, Strasburg was off the innings leash and ready to go in 2013. Any lesser starting pitcher may have balked at the prospect of facing such a protégé for the first time. But Matt Harvey knew he was not a lesser starting pitcher. The rest of the country would soon know as well.
Harvey blew through the Nats in the top of the first, striking out Denard Span on three pitches to start off. The Mets took advantage of early National yips, as Jordany Valdespin reached on an Ian Desmond error to lead off the bottom of the first. After advancing to third on a Daniel Murphy single, Valdespin came home on a Strasburg wild pitch. New York was gifted an early 1-0 lead that they would double three batters later on a two-out single by John Buck.
After the teams settled in, Harvey and Strasburg went at each other in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. Neither was unhittable – Marlon Byrd managed a double in the bottom of the second and Strasburg himself doubled in the top of the third – but the ace and the ace-to-be were about as dominant as could be hoped, turning it on in the fifth with 1-2-3 innings each.
Harvey was the beneficiary of a double play to help him out of trouble in the sixth. Strasburg was not as lucky: on his first pitch of the frame, a fastball, Ike Davis connected for a solo home run to left center. Two batters later, Lucas Duda followed up with a solo shot of his own, this time to right field. The duel was broken, and New York was up 4-0. Sensing the moment, 26,675 Citi Field faithful chanted in unison at the beleaguered National ace: “HAR-VEY’S BET-TER!”
Harvey had trouble holding up his end of the bargain in the top of the seventh, a walk and two singles led to the first Washington run of the game. After a visit to the mound, Daniel Murphy misplayed a groundball, and all of a sudden the Nationals had the bases loaded, and one swing could put them in the lead. But #33 was not going to let his moment pass: he struck out Kurt Suzuki, forced Roger Bernadina to pop out harmlessly to Buck, and offered Denard Span to put the ball on the ground. Murphy would not misplay this grounder, and the Mets were out of a jam. Matt Harvey walked off to the thunderous applause of the Met partisans, and so it came to pass that Harvey Day was born.
Harvey’s night may have been over after seven innings of one-run, four-hit, three-walk, seven-strikeout ball, but the offensive showing for his teammates was not. David Wright led off with a triple in the bottom of the eighth, and Ike Davis followed with a no-doubt line drive that hit the Pepsi Porch and put New York up 6-1. Two batters later, Lucas Duda continued his game of “anything you can do, I can do better,” and belted a solo homer to left center. That was where the score would stand as Bobby Parnell nailed down a decisive 7-1 series-opening victory.
We’ll get to Harvey in a moment, but something else about this game. This was the game in which Met fans had the most right to be optimistic about the 2013: Ike Davis and Lucas Duda combined for four home runs apiece. Davis appeared to be breaking out of another early-season malaise, and Duda was hitting the cover off the ball and doing it with an OPS over 1.200. Things were looking up. It wouldn’t last very long, but good feelings were going through Citi Field that night.
Not the least of which because of the man who just showed up the man who had been ordained as baseball’s next golden arm. Matt Harvey was 4-0 with an 0.93 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 29 innings. Not only did he seem destined to be an ace, he was on track to be the Mets’ second straight Cy Young Award winner. This, of course, was unbridled optimism that of course wouldn’t last. Then came the lack of run support. And the occasional misfires. And the elbow revelations followers of Stephen Strasburg are all too familiar with. And now it’s seven-and-a-half months later, and that future is in doubt. But if Strasburg’s comeback proves that all is not lost. If anything, the future is even brighter for Matt Harvey. After all, he’s better. The fans chanted so.
April 19: the 4th most Amazin’ game of 2013. On Friday we’ll visit more heroics from Lucas Duda, this time against a player considered the best-ever at his position.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#4 – Harvey’s Better (April 19)