Matt Harvey was coming off three straight good outings on the mound for the New York Mets.
The Atlanta Braves, tied for the worst record in the majors with the Minnesota Twins, came to Citi Field Friday night and handled Harvey with ease. But the Mets did not expect a rookie righthander who once was a part of their organization to be the better pitcher.
John Gant, by all means was one of those expendable young pitching prospects for New York. And when the trading deadline came in late July of last season, he became expendable. The Mets needed offense and in return Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson became two key veterans that helped spark an anemic offense get to the postseason.
So, because baseball is the unique game, Gant would be the one who returned to haunt his former organization by pitching a career high 6.2 innings and allowing one run that helped the Braves to a 5-1 win.
Remember Gant was expendable at the time, and the Mets needed to deliver something in order to get better. When teams want to do business with the Mets, the first thing they ask for is one of their valuable pitching prospects. The 23-year old got his start with the Gulf Coast League Mets in 2011 and threw the ball hard.
The fastball and sneaky curve had the Mets chasing the ball, and Gant gave up two hits and struck out a career tying five. Harvey was a former teammate in Double-A ball and became the one time Mets ace before Noah Syndergaard arrived. Gant was just trying to make it beyond Double-A.
Now, the former Mets 21st round pick in the 2011 amatuer draft is a part of a young Braves pitching staff and with a team in the rebuilding process. That first win is always significant and the youngster has a chance to be a part of the starting rotation.
“I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this year so far,” Gant said. He made his major league debut earlier this season with seven relief appearances and went back-and-forth with four different stints back in the minors.
But, one would never know that this was a pitcher who spent so much time with that itinerary. After the game, getting a greeting from Braves’ broadcaster and Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, ‘First of Many’ made that first win even more memorable.
Gant said ‘thank you.’ And, you could determine this was the first of probably many more of those shining moments.
The motion before his delivery is also unique. The left leg lifts and it looks like he goes into his motion. Then he puts the leg down, comes to a full stop and the delivery is normal. He developed the motion after one of his former teammates in the minors saw it and began to imitate what it looked like.
“It gives me absolutely no advantage whatsoever,” Gant said about the unique motion. “It’s comfortable. As I’ve become more aware of it, it’s grown.”
One Met, James Loney said about the motion, “It’s different timing of it. You have to be ready. Loney and the Mets said the rookie threw the ball well and the strike calls came early.
And, Gant showed little or no emotion as he neared in on his first win by throwing 104 pitches. He showed the composure of a veteran after the Mets scored their only run in the first inning. Curtis Granderson doubled and there were two ground ball outs. And their other hit off Gant came in the sixth inning on a two-out double from Asdrubal Cabrera.
All on a night when Harvey missed his pitches and for the moment that optimism of the three previous starts has left. Though Mets manager Terry Collins said, “We will continue to make sure he stays positive because I don’t think it should affect him. He’s been pitching too good.”
And for the Braves, they may have discovered that other young pitcher that will guide them in the years ahead.