Friday, April 10, 2015

Still Better

Opening Day this season was anticipated enough for Mets fans, but maybe it was yesterday, the 3rd game of the season, that we'd circled as the real Big Game of the early season.

It had been 20 months since Matt Harvey took the mound in anger for the Mets. In the time that passed between August 24th, 2013 and now, the Mets as a team seemed to be building themselves towards this day as the moment where they would finally take their step out of the 6-season slumber that's afflicted the team. No, as it sits right now, the Mets aren't perfect. But with their ace now back in the fold, they're a team that has to at least be taken seriously, particularly on those days when he's on the mound.

Matt Harvey had the Big Boy surgery in October of 2013. Though he clearly preferred to get himself back on the field sooner rather than later, conventional wisdom won out and Harvey instead got 18 months to recover instead of the requisite 12 that most pitchers tend to get. This extra recovery time is something most might take for granted, but if the early results are any indication, it seems like the key to Harvey returning and looking like he'd never left. After dominating the competition in Florida, Harvey went out in Washington and fired 6 shutout innings at the Nationals, allowing 4 hits, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts in the process as the Mets won 6-3. Harvey was stellar throughout, working through minor jams in the 1st and 2nd innings and eventually settled in and stepped on the Nationals' throats. Among his exploits were three strikeouts of Bryce Harper, fooling him with curveballs before running a fastball that hit 97 MPH by him.

This game, another Office Computer Special, was the rematch of a hotly-hyped matchup between Harvey and Stephen Strasburg. On a Friday night, April 19th of 2013, these two pitchers matched up in front of an electric crowd at Citi Field. When the Mets ultimately bombarded Strasburg for 7 runs, the entire crowd broke into a chant of "HARVEY'S BETTER!!!" Two years and major arm surgery later, Harvey proved he's still better than Strasburg, as the Mets basically killed him with a series of flare hits to plate 4 runs in the 4th, and then chased him with two more runs in the 6th before the Nationals seemed cognizant of what had hit them.

With the win today, the Mets won the season's opening series from the Nationals. This means little in the grand scheme of things, but consider how soundly the Nationals have handled the Mets in recent years.  I'm not sure when the last time the Mets won a series from the Nationals was. Probably 2010, I'd guess, and maybe I'm not far off. True, the Mets didn't drub the Nationals, and if it weren't for the porous fielding of Ian Desmond it would have been more difficult to win. But they took advantage of the breaks they got. When you're dealing with a team that's just pounded you game after game after game after game after game, and then you finally take a series from them when the tide is expected to turn, it can set the tone for the season.

No comments: