Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Today was certainly a day that everyone who had any sort of interest in the Mets had circled for at least the last week, when it became apparent that not only would Matt Harvey take on the Braves in his regularly scheduled appearance, but he would be joined in the nightcap of this Doubleheader by Zack Wheeler, who would make his long-awaited and much-anticipated Major League Debut. Perhaps, if things went well on both ends, this could be one of those watershed days in Mets history. In the midst of a lost season, these are the sort of things you look to take away.
Matt Harvey, in this lost season, has already proven himself worthy of the praise; even though his numbers belie his success, that hasn't diminished his already lofty standing both among Mets fans and his peers around Baseball. He hadn't won a start in close to a month, though that wasn't due to anything in particular he did wrong. He might not have you believe that, but Matt Harvey has pitched well enough to stand with 9, perhaps 10 wins to this point in the season. Such is the peril of having a historically inept offense behind you.
Last start, Harvey took his first loss of the season, a head-scratching 2-1 loss to the Cardinals, where Harvey did what he always does, pitch into the 7th inning, give up 1 run, allow 4 hits and strike out 8, and even if those aren't his exact numbers from last Thursday, they're close enough. But the Mets gave him nothing, the bullpen gave up 1 after he left, and that was enough to saddle him with the loss. Harvey, as is his wont, shouldered the blame himself. In his mind, the only way to counter the effects of his teammates' ineptitude is to simply not allow any runs.
Early this afternoon, Harvey essentially did that, taking a No Hitter into the 7th inning, while the Mets went out and provided him with an unheard of 4-run cushion.
Of course, being that it was a Tuesday afternoon, I was relegated to Radio duty. Therefore, my ability to follow the game as much as I would have liked was hindered. I remember hearing Josh Lewin barking something about Daniel Murphy sneaking home from 2nd base on a Marlon Byrd infield hit, but I was taking a phone call when John Buck hit his Home Run, and come the 8th inning, I was in a meeting and I have no idea how the Mets plated 2 more runs.
I also had no idea Harvey was working on a No Hitter until Howie Rose mentioned something in the about "The only runners to reach against Harvey have walked..." or something to that effect. At that point I thought I ought to try to keep up with things a little more, but just at that moment, Jason Heyward hit a little squibber that Harvey fielded and, what I believe happened was that he threw the ball to someplace where Lucas Duda probably was supposed to be, but wasn't. I also, at this point, have not seen a replay, so I don't know where the truth really lies. But, if nothing else, the loss of the No Hit bid meant I could go back to my regularly scheduled activities.
Harvey tired in the 8th, although again, I was still in a meeting, so I wasn't quite sure what had conspired, or who was even pitching for that matter. By time I got my bearings back, Bobby Parnell was striking out Chris Johnson, and for a second I thought the game was over, since Parnell was in, but what I'd missed was a bizarre Braves rally that developed slowly and then boiled over once Harvey was removed from the game, badly enough that Parnell was called in to rescue the Mets from their own ineptitude. Fortunately, Parnell was up to that task, and got through the 9th with relative ease, finishing off the 4-3 victory and getting Matt Harvey that most elusive 6th victory of the season.
The talk afterward was whether or not Harvey was pitching with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, just to remind everyone who the boss was, even though everyone was more enamored with Zack Wheeler. Harvey, who normally throws pretty hard, appeared to be crackling today, touching 100mph on one instance. Perhaps, although Harvey generally has one demeanor when he's on the mound, and not knowing him personally, but seeing him enough times, I'd have to imagine it's pretty intense. Whether he's trying to win a game or send a message doesn't particularly matter. Even in games where he hasn't looked his best, he's managed to gut his way through games. Today, he went on cruise control and spent most of the game gassing the Braves, en route to a career high 13 strikeouts. And after so many frustrating outings where he's pitched his ass off to no avail, the Mets finally got a few hits for him. Thus, the keynote for the day was sounded, and the Mets could enjoy the 3 or so hour break in between the two games, and I could finish my job for the day and head home in time to catch Zack Wheeler's debut in the Nightcap.