(Photo: Bill Menzel)
No matter what, Sunday’s Game 5 of the World Series represents Matt Harvey’s last start of the 2015 season. After all of the hoopla and concern and hand-wringing about pitch counts, innings limits, and agent interference, it all comes down to this: Depending upon the outcome of Game 4, No. 33 will be on the mound with his team either with their season on the line or with the chance to put them one game ahead in this best of seven confrontation.
Harvey stated in the presser before Game 4 that he’s ready to just go with the game plan without any extra pressure.
“As far as tomorrow goes, I know I’m excited that’s it’s a normal day’s rest. Regarding the innings stuff, I think that’s all taken care of. And completely thrown out the window.
“As a starting pitcher and being a younger guy, I think getting to that 200-9innings limit is something you always look for. You kind of want to be a horse and go out there. You look at guys who have thrown 230 innings year after year. That’s somebody I’ve always wanted to be. I think after this start I’ll probably be around 215 innings or so, and that’s a good mark for me. Definitely happy about that.”
To do so, Harvey will have to last at least into the seventh inning on Sunday night to hit that 215 target, having thrown 189.1 innings in the regular season, five in the NLDS, 7.2 frames in the NLCS, and six innings in his first World Series start.
The bottom line is targeting a W for the home team.
“The biggest thing is going out and doing everything I can to try and get us another win.”
A mild controversy erupted at the start of Game 3, when Noah Syndergaard challenged Royals leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar with a first pitch buzzball past his head. It sent the message right away they were not going to feed him a hittable fastball as had been the norm. It caused Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas to launch a verbal tirade captured by the TV cameras, casting aspersions that Thor was headhunting. But as far as the Mets were concerned, it was case closed. Message sent.
But the warning manager Terry Collins issued had a different objective.
“Here’s what happens now and (the media) have a huge hand in this. This is now going to be blown out of proportion because of what Noah said.”
Syndergaard boldly raised his hammer after Game 3. “If they have a problem with me, here I am, 60 feet, six inches away.”
“You know who is reading that stuff?” Collins suggested. “The umpires. So here they’ve got Chris Young going out tonight. Now, is he going to knock Grandy on his butt? Because if he hits him there’s going to be warnings. There’s going to be ejections.
“That was my whole point with the Chase Utley thing. We needed to win that game. The game Matt pitched we needed to win that game. And as I told Matt, I said, “Listen, you cannot get thrown out. We cannot go out there with a warning. The next time you try to pitch inside to somebody and you’re ejected in the second inning, we’re in trouble.” And I feel that same way tonight.”
Harvey got the message in his own inimitable style.
“Obviously the last thing you want in a series like this is to let guys get super comfortable. I think Noah did a good job of keeping them off balance and finding his own ways of changing that.
“You’ve got to make a pitch. That’s the biggest thing. It could be a first pitch out, which is always nice to have, or you can make a mistake and he’s going to make you pay for it. In my mind it’s about making a quality pitch from pitch one.”
Harvey opposes Edinson Volquez in Game 5. The Royals starter will be challenged emotionally after the death of his father just days ago.
Collins recognizes that emotions may be in the game plan.
“Volquez is an outstanding pitcher, and outstanding competitive guy. You’re seeing it in the postseason. He’s raised his game. We’ve faced him a lot (Volquez was with the Pirates in 2014). We’ve never seen 97, 98 out of him. We are now. Always had the good stuff, good command, but he competes. And as we all know, when you face a situation like he did, I’m sure the one thing his father would want him to do is pitch Game 5.
“So you’re challenged by that, the grief, and look, you know what would make him proud and make him happy, and that’s to go out and do what you do best and pitch. So I salute him because I know how hard it will be for him. Right now, he’s got something else to pitch for, the memory of his dad.”
All kinds of emotions will be on the menu for Game 5. Tears and cheers for dessert. Be there for first pitch. Should be a doozy.