Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Past And Future

The Ballclub has been in existence since 2007. Except for a gap in continuity, that's more or less been the lifespan of this current incarnation of the Mets/Phillies rivalry. Mostly, it's been one-sided in the Phillies favor. Since this blog began, the Phillies have won 5 consecutive Division Championships, 2 NL Pennants and one World Series Championship. The Mets have gone from a choke to a massacre to a laughingstock. The Phillies put together a Superteam built around some of the game's marquee talent and played in front of packed houses for multiple seasons. The Mets broke themselves down and played in front of houses that might rival those at a second-run Movie Theater in Binghamton, NY. Even last season, when the Phillies finally began to falter, they still managed to keep competitive into September. Even though the Phillies may no longer be thought of as the class of the division, the rivalry hasn't dimmed, especially when you consider how the Phillies basically symbolize everything that has just stomped on the Mets and laughed at them over these past few seasons. Perhaps it's not as close to home as the jeers coming from that other team in town, but considering the Mets and Phillies play 19 times a year, it's close enough.

On Monday night, a salvo was fired by the Mets that could, perhaps, be a sign that the tide is beginning to turn. Facing Roy Halladay, who hadn't lost to the Mets since his days as a Toronto Blue Jay, Matt Harvey turned in his second solid outing of the season, opening even more eyes and providing further proof as to why he is going to be one of the leaders of the Mets resurgence.

Though Halladay had a poor year in 2012, most of it was due to some injuries to both him and many of the key pieces around him. Nonetheless, one would have to wonder whether age and the boatloads of innings he always pitched were beginning to get the better of him. In the early going in 2013, it appears that those concerns are well-justified. A pitcher who used to complete games within 90 pitches, making hitters pound pitches into the dirt had all of a sudden began getting nicked to death, barely making it through 4 innings on those 90 pitches, many of which went for long, loud hits. The Mets jumped on Halladay, frustrating him in the process, and hung 7 runs on him, saddling him with an 0-2 record and a very un-Halladay like 14.73 ERA.

But as quick as Halladay's star seems to be fading is how quick Matt Harvey's is on the rise. Harvey's first outing was scintillating. His second outing on Monday night wasn't quite as good, but that's OK. Not as good for Harvey meant that instead of pitching 7 innings of 1-hit, 0-run, 10 strikeout baseball, he just pitched 7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run, 9 strikeout baseball. Harvey looked a little closer to Roy Halladay in stature than a 24-year old making his 12th Major League start. But from the moment he arrived in the Majors, he's given the impression that he's a bit ahead of the curve mentally, and that counts for a lot. This kind of attitude is obvious when he's on the mound. The result is that while Harvey has benefited from two very good offensive nights from the Mets, those efforts (particularly those of John Buck, who's homered in both of Harvey's starts) have mostly been ignored. Harvey is beginning to garner National attention, and if this keeps up, his starts are going to be met with the kind of excitement reserved for, say, Dwight Gooden in 1985 or Pedro Martinez in 2005. After his first two starts, Matt Harvey is 2-0, with 19 strikeouts and 4 hits allowed in 14 innings, with an ERA of 0.64.

The Mets have beaten the Phillies plenty of times during their down period, and it's always a good feeling when it happens. But watching Matt Harvey go out and shut them down, and realizing that he wasn't at his best really sends a message about where the future of this rivalry lies. Maybe I'm being presumptuous, and it's certainly not going to happen immediately, but the worm may finally be turning in the Mets favor.

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