For all of Matt Harvey’s accolades in the first 13 months of his major-league career, it took him quite a while to reach what old-school analysts would call the benchmark of a great starter: the complete-game shutout. Yes, the Mets kept Harvey on a short leash for the better part of the 2013 season (with reason, it turned out), which meant he was rarely allowed to go past the seventh inning. On the rare occasion he did manage to go nine innings, his offense failed to provide the cushion that would have made it official. All of that changed in today’s Amazin’ Ten game.
#6 – Flores’s Hello and Harvey’s Shutout (August 7)
The wheels were coming off in early August: gone were Bobby Parnell and David Wright to injury, and tough series against the Nationals, Marlins, and Royals had thoroughly put the Mets into the dog days of summer as they welcomed the Colorado Rockies to Citi Field. But this was Harvey Day, which meant anything could happen. It was also another chance to take a look at Wilmer Flores, the highly-touted offensive prospect who made his major-league debut on his 22nd birthday, just one day before. Captain Wright’s absence would be painful, sure, but having the chance to evaluate Flores at the big-league level was certainly a silver lining worth looking forward to.
Jul 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) pitches during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Wilmer didn’t take long to make his presence known: his one-out single in the bottom of the second was not only his first major-league hit, it started the rally that gave him his first major-league run. John Buck followed with a single of his own, and Omar Quintanilla’s single brought home New York’s first run of the evening. Buck delivered again in the fourth with an RBI single to score Ike Davis.
Harvey, meanwhile, was up to his usual tricks. The no-hit tension ended after just five outs with a Wilin Rosario single, but the domination continued as the inning went on. This domination took a slightly different form, however: instead of swing-and-a-miss after swing-and-a-miss, the Rockies were getting the bat on the ball…and sending them to New York infielders on the ground. So it was groundout after groundout for Harvey, who through eight innings racked up 11 groundball outs, including a double play, compared to six strikeouts. It wasn’t as exciting as 11 strikeouts would have been, but Harvey was doing something the Mets had hoped he would figure out how to: keep his pitch count down.
Aug 6, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman Wilmer Flores (4) before the game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Mets had put more offense behind Harvey than he was used to by the bottom of the eighth, but with Matt’s luck, 2-0 could disappear rather quickly. So New York bought a new insurance policy: Juan Lagares started with a one-out walk, then Marlon Byrd clubbed a ground-rule double two batters later. Despite the next hitter’s struggles, Colorado pitcher Manny Corpas issued the intentional walk to Ike Davis. That brought up the young Flores, who was determined to build on the foundation he established in the second. And build he did – three more floors. Wilmer laced a double into the left field corner, scoring all three baserunners and giving the Mets a comfortable 5-0 lead. The look on Flores’s face when he reached second said it all: Cloud Nine had come to Flushing.
The extra cushion was enough for Terry Collins to decide it’d be okay for Harvey to finish what he started. Two quick groundouts (make it 13 for 14 outs) put Matt in line for his first-career shutout. Then things got (painfully) interesting, as Charlie Blackmon crushed a line drive off Harvey’s leg and into right field for a base hit. The 27,581 Citi Field faithful and all of Mets nation collectively held its breath as the trainers ran out to check on the Real Deal. But as Josh Lewin would later assess, they went out there to check on the ball. Harvey stood up for the final battle against Troy Tulowitzki, which he would win by forcing the All-Star Rocky shortstop to pop out to second. Matt Harvey’s first shutout was in the books.
Wilmer Flores’s hot streak was just getting started, as he would accumulate six more RBIs over the next four games, including his first-career home run in Arizona on August 11. His bat would cool off significantly after that, though, and he would hit just .194 over his last 21 games. Without a home position and with only one spot potentially available, Flores’s future with the Mets is still very much in flux.
As for Harvey, his ninth W of 2013 would be his last – just three weeks later would come The Diagnosis. But on this night, with a new approach figured out and a new bat behind him, all was right for Matt Harvey and the New York Mets.
August 7: the 6th most Amazin’ game of 2013. On Friday we’ll take a break from Harvey’s greatness to look at the turnaround of another future anchor of the Mets’ rotation.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#6 – Flores’s Hello and Harvey’s Shutout (August 7)