On Saturday night at Citi Field, in Game 1 of the NLCS, Matt Harvey didn’t just dominate. Harvey didn’t just help lead the Mets to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. He didn’t just hang in there after a line drive struck him in the triceps. Harvey did more than that. He completed his redemption.
On September 5, when Harvey stunned fans and media alike by intimating that he was on board with agent Scott Boras’ newly-proposed hard 180-inning cap, he was crushed from all angles, including by me right here. Harvey wasn’t getting crushed because of agreeing with a potential innings limit during his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He was getting crushed because of how the situation was being handled.
A few weeks before the Boras/Harvey brouhaha erupted, Harvey said during a radio interview that he didn’t “believe” in innings limits. Prior to the season, the Mets — with Harvey on board — put a plan in place that would get him through the regular season and the playoffs. During the regular season, Harvey fought Terry Collins whenever Collins wanted to remove him from games early and fought the idea of a six-man rotation (along with the other starting pitchers) that was quickly scrapped.
If Harvey’s plan all along was to shut down at 180 innings, he was acting disingenuous at best, two-faced at worst.
Things came to a head during the Mets’ Sunday night game against the Yankees on September 20 at Citi Field, when Harvey — who was dominating — was removed after five innings in an eventual Mets loss. After the game, Collins said “damn right” when he was asked if the situation was bothering him. And after the game, something apparently snapped inside Harvey.
Before his next start, on September 26 in what was the NL East clincher in Cincinnati, Harvey went to Collins and told him the reigns needed to be removed. Harvey then tossed 6.2 innings of tw0-run ball as the Mets clinched the division and hasn’t looked back since.
After Harvey was limited to just one start in the NLDS, which he gutted through without his best stuff while throwing 97 pitches in five innings, he went to Collins before the deciding Game 5 in Los Angeles and said that he wanted to be available out of the bullpen if necessary. With his words and actions lately, Harvey has made his intentions clear, and everything came into clearer focus on Saturday night at Citi Field.
In the biggest game the Mets have played in nine years, Harvey — with the fans again behind him and chanting his name all the way through — thoroughly dominated the Cubs for 7.2 innings, with the only blemishes being a misplay in center field by Juan Lagares that led to a run and a long home run by Kyle Schwarber, who was the last batter Harvey faced.
Harvey said on Saturday that he never wants to talk about innings limits again, suggested that he would be unrestricted from here on out, and delivered.
While Harvey is now gung-ho, it should be noted that he’s up to 202 innings on the season, already the fifth-most ever by a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery.
The expectation is that Harvey will pitch again in the NLCS before starting once or twice in the World Series. If Harvey has another long outing in Game 5 of the NLCS, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to be limited to just one start in the World Series should the Mets make it. And that would be just fine.
No one was ever asking for Harvey to totally throw concerns about his health out the window. They were simply asking for him to do what he said he was going to do from Spring Training all the way until September 4, and that’s be there for his team when it mattered.
After getting lost a bit along the way, Harvey has found himself. The Dark Knight has risen.