Matt Harvey was the center of attention at Citi Field Tuesday evening. The New York Mets right-hander could be more of an attraction than Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, two other great Mets hurlers of the past and management may have planned his return and first home start since August of 2013.
The objective, and pure speculation because it is being denied, Harvey would pack them in a second straight day to begin the home portion of the season.
Last season after a sold out opening day attendance was around the 28,000 mark. Tuesday night 39,849 came to see the pitcher known as “The Dark Knight.” Indeed, Harvey is an attraction and and one of the bright spots for the Mets and ace who may pitch his team into the postseason come October.
But it wasn’t Harvey Tuesday night. Though he did get the win over the Philadelphia Phillies to go 2-0 in his first two starts, the highlight wasn’t all Harvey who did not have his best stuff though the fastball was clocked at 97. The highlight was the crowd at Citi Field, the intensity and feel of October baseball in Flushing Queens even though this was the eighth game of a young season and second of 81 home games.
A bizarre game in April that had fans chanting “Matt Har-Vee”, one play under review, another denied,,four home runs, three Mets and one Phillie hit by a pitch. The Mets’ Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores were plunked on the arm. The captain David Wright went down with a right hamstring pull and joins the walking wounded and hopefully Cuddyer is just day-to day as Wright stays in New York and does not miss too much time.
Yes, it was that type of evening at Citi Field and it wasn’t all about the return of Matt Harvey. This is early April, with the Mets making a statement that they have arrived and will be a part of this National League pennant chase until the end.
Terry Collins, the manager said after the bizarre evening, “We may not have David Wright for a while but you have to continue to play hard. “ And it is an issue for the Mets as they face more adversity. They lost closer Jenrry Mejia for 80- games due to violating baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Cuddyer, who left the game with a left hand contusion, after being hit by a pitch in the second inning, will know more about the extent of his injury before the finale game with the Phillies on Wednesday and though X-rays were negative, he said “I don’t think I will need any days but we’ll see how it feels in the morning.” No days off is what Cuddyer is hoping, as is Collins because the new left fielder is quickly getting accustomed to his surroundings and quietly getting his bat going,
And the Mets, with a four-man bench and eight pitchers in the bullpen had to place backup catcher Anthony Recker to finish at third base to replace Wright. Eric Campbell, who has been ripping the ball in the first few games at Triple-A Las Vegas was en route to New York to provide the reinforcement at third and off the bench.
Wright, expects to return soon. If not the Mets will be losing a major cog in their lineup and though it is early, the captain does not want to be sidelined long after recovering from a bad shoulder during the off-season and putting in good work during the spring.
Said Wright, “Hopefully the worst case scenario is two weeks.”
“It is a major problem,” Collins said about Wright. The last time Wright pulled a hamstring in 2013 he missed significant playing time and there were concerns he did not take himself out of the lineup sooner. Wright knew it was better to come out of the game this time and not let this hamstring issue hinder him more.
As for Flores, who has been holding on to the starting spot at shortstop, there is minimal concern. The plunk to his hand in the second inning needed attention but he stayed in the game. If he needs to sit a day or two, the job will go to Ruben Tejada who came off the bench and batting for Harvey in the sixth inning got a good looking pinch hit double to left field.
“Definitely one of the craziest games for sure,” commented Mets pitcher Carlos Torres who heard the intensity from his vantage point out in the bullpen in right-center field. “I see a team battling every time no matter what the situation is.”
And the battling was a job for Collins also. He was ejected for arguing a catcher’s interference call in the fifth inning. The Citi Field crowd, and many who are critical of his daily changes of the lineup, cheered the manager. That led to more of the bizarre moments of the evening.
Yes the Mets are battling and it is early. The Phillies may be rebuilding and not a threat in the National League but there was a renewed sense that a rivalry was rebuilt Tuesday evening with the two teams. For sure the presence of Matt Harvey led to the intensity and there will be more.
Harvey day resumes Sunday at Citi Field against the Miami Marlins. Perhaps that game won’t be bizarre but for now the Mets are being tested. Time will tell how far they can deal with this adversity in April.
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