Friday, June 5, 2015

Preceeding Reputation

I have this general impression of Matt Harvey. I've never met the man personally, but just based on the way he carries himself. I base this on the way he speaks about his craft and his desire to do well, not just for himself, but for his team at large. The impression I have is that Matt Harvey, on the days he's pitching, takes the mound as though he'd just slept on a bed of nails. And the only thing that will soothe his inner savage is by simply obliterating his opponent. Remember, this is a pitcher who will throw 7 innings, allow 2 runs, 5 hits, no walks and strike out 10 and say he didn't have a good game. So you can imagine that after his effort last Friday, in which he threw 8 innings, threw one bad pitch to Meat Loaf and ended up with a loss, he must have been absolutely steaming.

Cut to last night in Arizona, the setting in which he forcibly interjected himself onto the Major League landscape like a freight train three years ago. The Mets have sort of been muddling along. They get great pitching most nights, but win infrequently due to a general scarcity of offense. And Matt Harvey gives up a second inning Home Run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Saltalamacchia apparently caught Harvey at the wrong moment. Or maybe he just snapped. Whatever the reason, Harvey pitched the rest of the night with smoke coming out of his ears.

From that point forward, Harvey allowed little more to the Diamondbacks, stopping them cold while we waited to see if the Mets offense could generate something against Robbie Ray. They got hits, but no runs. Finally, Ray departed after the 5th in favor of Dominic Leone, and finally, the Mets managed to break through and get Harvey a lead, thanks mostly to a long double by Kevin Plawecki, a rally-extending hit from Harvey himself, and a Ruben Tejada Sac Fly.

Harvey did allow a Home Run to Paul Goldschmidt, but that's no great shakes, because Goldschmidt hits Home Runs off of everyone. By that point, Harvey had done what was necessary on his end to get the Mets a lead. He gritted his way through 7 innings of work, and then the Mets, in a rare late-inning explosion, put the game away, thanks primarily to the efforts of John Mayberry Jr., whose 4 hits easily represented his best game since joining the Mets, and whose 9th inning Home Run was the icing on this much-needed 6-2 victory.

So, now that the dust has settled, we can get to the real argument. Harvey, after the game, said that the Saltalamacchia Home Run got him pitching angry. I've been virtually glued to every start Matt Harvey has made in the Major Leagues (by hook or by crook) and from all I can gather, Harvey almost always pitches angry. It begs the question: Did Harvey need to give up that Home Run in order to get angry? Had he been letting his guard down? Or had he simply had enough of giving up Home Runs to Marlins, Marlins castoffs and Chase Utley? He gave up a Home Run to Utley earlier this season and 4 innings later drilled him square in the numbers. Pretty sure that's a Bob Gibson move, and Gibson used to drink a cocktail of horseradish and white vinegar before every game, so he was already punchy. The game is a bit more genteel now, so Harvey isn't likely to go around decking batters, but then again it might teach these hitters to not dig in too hard against him.

Point is, I don't think this is the first time Harvey's pitched angry. It may be the first time he's admitted it, but it's far from the first time this has happened.

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