MR. NOVEMBER: NOVEMBER 1, 2015
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Result: Mets L (Extra Innings)
Game Score: 71
“This isn’t Harvey Game??”
Nope! But it’s close.
The World Series is an event unlike any other. Considered the pinnacle of professional sports, it’s the clash at the end of the marathon that every 162-game season brings. The best of the best in the league going head-to-head for up to seven games, it is not hyperbolic to say that every player’s fantasy to be on the field on a crisp autumn night.
Though this game would end with a Mets (and World Series) loss, it wasn’t Harvey’s doing.
Well, not entirely, at least.
As expected, Harvey began his night on the world’s biggest stage with a strikeout. With elimination breathing down his neck, he proved to be the superhero we all thought he was, striking out 8 batters in his first five innings of work.
He would go on to pitch eight innings of scoreless baseball. Simply put, he was sensational.
Did he surrender two game-tying runs in the top of the 9th inning? Yes. That’s the unavoidable truth of the situation. To blame the loss on him, though, is misguided.
The Mets would hold the eventual-victor Royals scoreless into the 12th. Mets fans don’t need a reminder of what happened next.
Would they have even needed extra innings if Harvey hadn’t allowed those two runs? Maybe. Did the Mets also have an entire home half of the ninth and nine outs in extras to walk it off and extend the series? You bet.
Final Line: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 9 K’s
By now, you must be asking yourself, “Okay, we get it, he was much better than we are willing to admit, but where’s the good stuff? Where’s this ‘Harvey Game’ you bragged about finding?”
Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly present:
THE HARVEY GAME: MAY 7, 2013
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Result: Mets W (Extra Innings)
Game Score: 97
And so, we have arrived.
Yes, this seemingly nondescript early-season start may have had all the trappings of a standard spring baseball game, but any semblance of a regular day at the ballpark was quickly dashed.
Harvey got to work instantly. Dealing with an actively bloody nose through the first several innings, he sat down 20 batters in a row, accumulating 9 strikeouts in the process.
He seemed like a man possessed: he was painting the corners with ease, a Renaissance man of many proportions mowing down any who dared cross his path. His curveball was breaking beautifully, his fastball averaging an easy 97 mph…for all intents and purposes, Harvey was simply unhittable.
Then came the seventh.
Chicago right fielder Alex Rios came to the dish. Ahead in the count with two outs, Harvey delivered a curveball that hung up in the zone just long enough for Rios to get around on it, sending a bouncing ground ball towards the gap on the left side of the infield.
New York shortstop Miguel Tejada played the ball as best he could, stabbing it with his glove just inches from the outfield grass and making a leaping, Jeter-esque throw across his body, only to be late by a matter of milliseconds.
Harvey was perfect no more.
Still, the maestro persevered. He followed the infield hit with another strikeout, his 10th of the evening.
He would go on to sit down the rest of the White Sox he faced in order, finishing his night with a career-high 12 strikeouts against zero walks.
At the end of regulation, Harvey had thrown nine innings of one-hit, no-run ball. It remains to this day one of the most underappreciated pitching performances in Mets franchise history.
Final Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K’s
What Have We Learned?
Matt Harvey was poised to be the cornerstone of a franchise that was digging its way out of the doldrums, positioning itself for the postseason and righting the many (many) wrongs made since 2006.
Entering the decade, he had the privilege of being thrust into the spotlight as a saving grace, a shining light in the increasingly dark tunnel that lead to an even darker clubhouse.
For a little while, that’s what he was.
Before deGrom became deGrom, the Mets had Harvey.
He was the Dark Knight. He was a mild-mannered average Joe who became something otherworldly at first pitch. He was the hero Flushing deserved, but not necessarily the one it needed.
In the three years since we packed his bags for him and kicked him onto the tarmac at LaGuardia, Harvey has had a bumpy road in baseball. Only this year he has seemed to come even remotely close to his former self. He may not have the same zip in his delivery, but it’s clear he’s working towards a personal rebirth on the mound.
So, I wish him the best. With significantly improved hindsight, I look back on his tenure fondly, even though it exploded in a very public ball of flames.
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Hopefully, he gets a warm welcome on Wednesday. Personally, I think he has earned it.