Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Got Your Back!

Matt Harvey for once proved he was mortal earlier tonight, although even his worst outing of the season only left the Mets down 3-1 after his 6 innings. Harvey wasn't his usual unhittable self, but then again, the law of averages was bound to catch up with him at some point. And even then, this supposedly bad outing still yielded only 4 hits, 3 runs and 7 strikeouts. But, considering those 3 runs ballooned his ERA to 1.54, that's just a testament to how well he's pitched this far. The Dodgers also didn't exactly knock him around; they scored a run in the 1st on a fielder's choice, and Matt Kemp's 6th inning Home Run was an opposite field flick job that was simply a great hitter hitting a great pitch in the right spot. Aside from that, Harvey was basically doing what he usually does: mow down the opposition with a quickness.

The only real downside to all this was that the Mets offense didn't back him up the way they usually do. Wimpy Ted Lilly pretty much stifled the Mets through the early part of the game, only bending slightly when Harvey himself made a strong bid for his first career Home Run, instead just clanging the ball off the wall for a double. Ruben Tejada followed with a double of his own, scoring Harvey and, at that point, tying the game 1-1.

But down 3-1 and looking rather anemic offensively, things appeared somewhat grim for the Mets. That's not to say they didn't have opportunities against the Dodgers bullpen. Jay J.P. Howell did his best to hand the Mets some runs by walking the first two batters he faced, but Antonio Alfonseca Ronald Bellisario came in to bail him out, allowing only a Sacrifice Fly to Justin Turner before stopping the Mets cold for the remainder of his 1.2 innings. So Harvey still found himself on the short end of the stick, looking at having his 4-0 record blemished by the slimmest of margins unless the offense could scrape across another run.

It took them until the 9th inning, but they finally managed to scrape that run across. Mike Baxter got it started with a flare hit to left that Carl Crawford neither caught nor managed to pick up in a timely fashion, allowing Baxter to hustle out a leadoff double that more or less changed the scope of the game. Tejada sacrificed Bax to 3rd, leaving Daniel Murphy in prime position to tie the game. And perhaps he would have, but for a brilliant catch by Jerry Hairston, Jr, who basically showed little regard for his body in smashing into a dugout railing. Buzzkill. That was going to seal the Mets fate. Except that David Wright nailed the game-tying hit on the next pitch. Game tied, Harvey off the hook, joy in Metville.

This, of course, all would have been moot had the Mets had one of those games where they immediately melt down in the 10th inning, but behind Bobby Parnell, who's pitched rather well even if he hasn't exactly had save opportunities, the Dodgers were turned aside (this after fine jobs from Scott Rice, Scott Atchison and the rejuvenated LaTroy Hawkins), so the Mets had a chance to do some damage of their own in the 10th against this Josh Wall fellow who I guess is the Dodgers answer to Kevin McGlinchy since he came in and immediately started giving up hits and walks and sacrifice bunts, and then Don Mattingly was holding court on the mound, but it was really delaying the inevitable. The only thing left to chance with Jordany Valdespin up was whether he was going to keep control of himself with the bases loaded, or was he going to try to hit the 6-run Homer and ground out to first. The answer, fortunately, was the former; Valdespin put a nice, level, controlled swing on a 2-1 fastball and, oddly enough, ended up being the Home Run Hero because his fly ball that would have won the game regardless ended up sailing over the wall in Right, ensuring that Jordany could back-flip his way around the bases with his first career Grand Slam, sealing a hair-raising 7-3 victory.

So, yes, Matt Harvey has in fact proved himself to be human, just like every other pitcher in the Major Leagues, and sometimes he has to rely on his teammates to pull a game out of the fire for him. Tonight, his teammates, particularly Baxter, Wright and Valdespin, all had his back.

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