(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Matt Harvey went to the mound for the Mets Sunday having to get them a win after dropping the first two of the series against the Pirates.
Despite the emergence this season of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and all the excitement they have generated, Harvey is still the go-to guy that drives this team.
When Harvey came up in late 2012 and into his first full season in 2013, the Mets were a team filled with a lot of minor-leaguers and little expectations. From the minute Harvey showed up, the Mets had a new, brash attitude.
Every time Harvey took the mound was billed as “Harvey Day,” making every time he pitched a must-watch. The problem was that the other four starters were not worth watching that season, and the team faded after the All-Star break.
Harvey missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, but the transformation of the club’s attitude continued with deGrom and Zach Wheeler and additions like Curtis Granderson. The message was that they would not accept losing. The Mets faded again in August of 2014, but with Harvey set to come back this season, they knew being a contender might not be far away.
The Mets started this season hot with the big 11-game winning streak that brought them to 13-3, but they tailed off after that and fell to around .500 throughout June and July.
Throughout June and July, the attiude of the team changed, as members of the “old guard” Dillon Gee and Kirk Nieuwnhuis, faces of the six straight losing seasons were moved out. In their places came Steven Matz and Michael Conforto from the minors.
The transformation of the Mets that began with Harvey culminated with bringing in Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson.
Bringing in Cespedes was a statement that the Mets are serious about contending this year and they have turned a three-game deficit to Washington in the National League East when Cespedes arrived into a four-and-a-half game edge entering Sunday.
Harvey has also had a tremendous season, with the only rough patch coming from late May into June. Starting with the seven shutout innings he threw against Toronto on June 16th, Harvey has allowed more than two runs only once, on July 4th at the Dodgers, when he surrendered three run on seven hits in five innings.
Harvey has had three streaks of 16 scoreless innings this season, the latest one ending on Sunday afternoon when Pedro Alvarez homered off him in the second inning. The streak prior to this one occurred from May 8th to 18th.
Harvey has had seven starts this season where he has not allowed a run, which is tied for the third-most such starts in the majors.
Sunday marked the 28th straight start at Citi Field that Harvey went at least six innings.
Harvey did his job, allowing one run on seven hits, with six strikeouts and one walk in six innings. He did not return after the rain, and Manager Terry Collins said he would have come out anyway.
Collins said of Harvey, “He wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, but I tell you, our starting pitching battles. They battle, the days they don’t have their best stuff, they battle. Matt didn’t give in, he was still in the 6th inning, he needed to make a pitch, it was 98 miles an hour. It’s still there, that’s why I love ’em, they don’t give in. Hey, look, if you’re going to beat our starting pitching, you better get some hits because they’re not going to give in, and look up, it’s 1-1, we’ll take it.”
The shame of it is that this must have felt like old times (if you can call earlier this season and 2013 that), as he did not get any run support despite going against Jeff Locke, who entered with a 6- 7 record and an ERA of 4.43.
If the Mets are to keep their momentum going down the stretch, they need a strong Harvey and the offense to pick them up.