New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Harvey has been called a lot of things, but if he wants to be called great then he needs to pick up the Mets when they need him most. The stage was set for him in Game 2 of the NLDS. The Mets were sucker-punched and battle lines have been drawn. If Harvey wants to own New York once again, it’s there for the taking in Game 3 at Citi Field on Monday.
Harvey was dubbed the Dark Knight early in 2013 as he was embarking on what would be his breakout year. He was anointed the leader of the Mets rotation youth movement, but abdicated the throne when he missed all of 2014. While he was away, the Mets watched Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard emerge as stars.
Matt Harvey got the super hero nickname after less than a year in the majors, but it was deGrom who won NL Rookie of the Year. Harvey dazzled at the All-Star Game in his hometown, but deGrom one-upped him in this year’s All-Star Game by fanning three batters on ten pitches. It is Noah Syndergaard, not Harvey who owns the radar gun these days. Harvey only seems to grab the back page in connection with his mouth and his agent, not often enough with his on-field performance.
This is not to bash Harvey, it is just reality. He’s no longer the biggest name on the marquee as new stars have stepped into the void. He’s been excellent in his return from Tommy John surgery, better even than many hoped he would be. Yet his identity is still cloudy. Super heroes don’t talk about pitch counts. They beg for the ball and refuse to give it up when the manager wants it back.
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On the same night Matt Harvey made news by hugging his super agent at Dodger Stadium, his team would suffer its toughest defeat of the year. The Mets were just three innings away from a commanding 2-0 lead over the Dodgers heading home to Flushing. But the 2015 Mets don’t do anything without a little drama. One dirty take-out slide later and the Mets were down a short stop, tied with the Dodgers 1-1 and searching for answers to explain what had just happened to them like a trailer park after a tornado.
Chase Utley is a familiar villain to Mets fans, but he just took it to a new level, becoming John Rocker, Roger Clemens and well, Chase Utley all rolled into one. The reaction from Dodgers, their fans and the L.A. media just makes the scene all the more sinister. The bad guys are on their way to Citi Field and the Mets have lost the upper hand. The Mets need a hero.
The Mets have been calling for justice from MLB, which isn’t likely. If MLB won’t help, then we want a posse to get vigilante justice. But rather than bean balls and bench-clearing brawls, what we really need is a shutdown performance from Matt Harvey and a 2-1 lead with a chance to wrap it up on home turf.
With the Game 2 loss, Kershaw now looms in the Mets’ future whether on short rest in Game 4 or in a winner-take-all Game 5 in Los Angeles. Which would you rather see? If Harvey can beat the Dodgers in Game 3 you have to think L.A. leans toward bringing back Kershaw on three days rest with their backs against the wall.
As good as Harvey’s been in 2015, not one of the Mets’ touchstone moments have involved him. From deGrom to Wilmer Flores to Yoenis Cespedes and now even Ruben Tejada, our Mets have left it all on the field for us and we’ve loved them for it. In the wake of #TejadaGate, If Harvey gives us 110 pitches, seven plus innings and a 2-1 lead with a chance to close it out at home, then he’s officially part of the championship tapestry.
Harvey needs a defining moment and we badly need for him to give it to us now. Step out from the shadow of Scott Boras, take the ball and ram it down Dodger throats. When Terry Collins tries to take it away because of your pitch count, chase him back into the dugout and finish the job yourself. If you can only give us one game, give us the game.
Oh, and feel free to drill Utley next year.