Saturday, April 20, 2013

Owner Of The Moment

The Mets played a game earlier today of lesser note and less fortunate outcome than the one they played on Friday night, and since I barely saw any of Saturday's game and was in attendance at Citi Field on Friday, that makes for a much more interesting blog, even if it's a day late. In a pitching matchup that earned all the hype of a prize fight or a line of video games, Matt Harvey outdueled Stephen Strasburg and the Mets emerged with a resounding 7-1 victory.

It's safe to say at this point that if you're a Mets fan who isn't excited about what Matt Harvey has done so far this season, you either need to check your pulse or root for another team because it's clear that he's not only arrived, he's arrived with authority. Harvey's 4th start of this season basically mirrored his first three, and against a powerful Nationals lineup, that's a pretty clear sign that on most nights, this is how it's going to be. Harvey will come out, hit his spots, strike guys out, maybe struggle through an inning or two but eventually work out of it, and leave with the Mets in position to win. Or he'll start to economize more and begin finishing off games. It's not simply a hot streak, it's the norm. And everyone is starting to take notice.

By no means was Citi Field full on Friday Night; the attendance of 26,675 certainly felt accurate as far as the ratio of fans to empty seats. But the demeanor of the crowd felt different. Somehow, the 26,675 generated the energy of 55,777 at Shea Stadium in the midst of a pennant race or a Playoff game, and it's been a long time since I've felt that kind of a vibe from the crowd at a Mets game.

Usually, most attendees at Mets games who aren't me and don't sit there obsessively keeping score or running through whatever obsessive/compulsive machinations that we go through in the course of a game are up and milling around, or standing on line at Shake Shack or whatever concession stand of their choice rather than paying attention to the game. This wasn't the case on Friday. For the majority of the game, fans seemed glued to their seats, eyes on the field. This was can't miss Baseball, a rarity for an April 19th game.

Case in point: Security at the stadium was heightened, which was to be expected after the events in Boston earlier in the week, and it took me much longer to get inside. So long, in fact, that I had to forego my usual pregame meal. I figured, at some point, I'd be able to steal away long enough to grab a bite on the promenade. But, when I did try to get something to eat, I found the lines far too slow-moving (I was later to find out that the concessionaire purposely short-staffed the Promenade on Vendors because it was an April game, not anticipating a larger-than-normal crowd). There wasn't an especially large amount of people waiting on concession lines, but when there's one cashier working it can create a backup. And when the inning break ends and Matt Harvey gives up a hit to the leadoff batter, I don't feel like standing around watching on a screen, I want to be back in my seat. So, I ended up not eating anything, which might not have been the brightest idea in the world, although it certainly saved money.

Who could blame anyone from not wanting to go anywhere during the game? For a good chunk of the night, it appeared that the anticipated pitcher's duel had unfolded as expected. Strasburg gave up 2 in the 1st, but both were unearned; the result of an error, a Wild Pitch and a 2-out single, and after that, he'd settled in, but he wasn't matching Harvey. Not on this night. Harvey appeared too determined to let this moment get the better of him. Strasburg wasn't off his game, but the Mets sort of nickel-and-dimed him to death, working deep counts and making him throw more pitches than he probably would have liked. Harvey stepped on the Nationals' throats all night; though he's had sharper games—his 3 Walks a season-high—he worked out of every jam the Nationals threw at him, culminating with a Houdini act of the highest order to escape a Bases Loaded, 0 out situation in the 7th inning. By that point, Strasburg had already melted down and allowed a pair of truly monstrous Home Runs to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, and the fans, whipped into a veritable frenzy by these longballs, began catcalling him with chants of "OVERRATED!!!" and "HARVEY'S BETTER!!!"

For this night, at least, the fans were right. Harvey was simply better. He was better than Strasburg last night, and so far, he's been better than just about everyone else in the league.

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