Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Now I've Seen Everything

As I've mentioned at some point in the past (though I don't expect you to pour over 6 years of this blog to find it), I have a habit of always seeming to catch a particular Mets starter several times over the course of the season. Fortunately, this season, I've been catching Matt Harvey's starts. Tonight was my 6th game of the year, and the 3rd time I'd seen Matt Harvey.

Harvey was excellent the other two times I'd seen him this year. Tonight, he defied description.

I have seen many outstanding pitching performances over the years. I've seen guys like Doc Gooden be great, and Pedro Martinez, and Al Leiter pitch some excellent games. I've seen Mets pitchers take No Hitters deep into games, like Ron Darling, Rick Reed and even Mark Clark. But I always maintained that the single best pitching performance that I'd ever witnessed was that by Bobby Jones against the Giants on October 8th, 2000. Although the circumstances on Tuesday night were vastly different from that Sunday afternoon in October 13 years ago, Matt Harvey's performance was very much the equal of Jones'.

I had a feeling Harvey would have a good performance tonight. I couldn't really explain why. But given that he had a couple of days of extra rest, pitching at home, against a pretty paltry-looking White Sox lineup, coupled with the fact that the White Sox were, of course, an American League team that has played the Mets exactly once since Interleague Play began in 1997. The circumstances just seemed to dictate a good performance.

But Harvey exceeded even my expectations by coming out and being simply unhittable. I mean, I know the White Sox aren't a good team, in spite of the fact that they're led by Ballclub Favorite Robin Ventura, but they want to go out there and win games just like any other team. But facing Matt Harvey on Tuesday, they looked completely defeated. If they weren't striking out, which 12 of them did over Harvey's 9 innings, they weren't making anything resembling solid contact. Most balls were harmless grounders directly at fielders, or lazy flies to the outfield. Sometimes, you see a team just run into a buzzsaw and just want to get the hell out of there and start over, and that's kind of what the White Sox looked like.

Twice, in June of 1998, I was at Mets games where Rick Reed took Perfect Games into the late innings. There's sort of a groundswell that grows within the crowd when something like this is going on. You don't really notice it during the first few innings. Maybe with 2 out in the 4th, the fans start to get a little into it. By the 5th inning, it gets a little louder. Come the 6th, people start standing with 2 strikes. They're roaring by the 7th...

...But I'd never seen anything further. On June 8th, 1998, Rick Reed retired the first 20 Devil Rays before Wade Boggs doubled. Given the circumstances I mentioned earlier, I was really starting to think I might see Matt Harvey take this thing all the way. That's how dominant he looked out there. Even a nose bleed and a pitcher who forgot to take his turn at bat didn't slow him down.

But Alex Rios hit a grounder deep in the hole at Shortstop that was just a little too far for Ruben Tejada to make a miracle jump throw. He made it close, but Rios was safe. Perfect Game done.

Nonetheless, there was still a game to be won. Sometimes, these things can undo a pitcher. But, undaunted, Harvey took his ovation, got back on the mound and struck out Adam Dunn. To that point, he'd only thrown 78 pitches. There was still more work to be done, and he went out and retired 6 more batters in rapid succession. Harvey barely broke a sweat in his 9 inning, 105 pitch effort. 28 White Sox batters came to the plate. 27 went back to the dugout with nothing to show for it. 1 hit, no runs, no walks, 12 strikeouts. I don't think I've ever witnessed better and I don't know that there have been many better pitching performances in Mets history.

There's one small problem, perhaps the turd in the punchbowl of a magnificent night. See, when you throw 9 innings and give up no runs, no walks and 1 hit, one would reason that you'd be rewarded with a victory. Unfortunately, the stupid Mets couldn't score a damn run for him. I'm almost glad that Harvey gave up a hit, because can you imagine if he'd thrown a Perfect Game through 9 innings, and it wouldn't count and he wouldn't get a win because his asshole teammates couldn't get him a run? He didn't need more than 1, that was pretty clear. But it seems that was a tall order. It didn't help that the lower half of the batting order consisted of Me, Ike Davis, El Guapo and Matt Harvey.

Still, I don't know much about Hector Santiago, his numbers look rather good, and though I'd pegged him as a junkballer early in the game, he has nice stuff, but let's be realistic. This is Hector Santiago of the 2013 Chicago White Sox, not Johan Santana of the 2004 Minnesota Twins. They should have been able to scrape a run across. But noooooo. Though Santiago tried to hand it over to the Mets in the first few innings, he eventually settled down and didn't give the Mets an inch over the majority of his 7 innings. After Ruben Tejada's 5th inning single, the Mets didn't get another baserunner until Ike Davis worked a leadoff walk in the 10th. The White Sox excuse for not scoring was being up against a budding superstar. What's the Mets excuse? They did nothing against an unheralded dude with a mohawk who can't remember to take his turn at bat, and a pair of retread relievers, only to finally get a run in the 10th thanks to Mike Baxter. If there were any justice, they would have done this an inning earlier. But no. It was the 10th, and Bobby Parnell, who performed a mini-Harvey, setting down the Sox 1-2-3, ended up with his 3rd win of the season. Sigh. I should be happier about the victory and I probably shouldn't complain too much. At least it was fast. At 2 hours, 30 minutes, this probably was the quickest game I'd been to all season, in spite of being my first extra inning affair since 2011.

Hopefully, these nights where the Mets don't score for Harvey don't become a habit. You can never be too sure the way the Mets tend to go.

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