A miserable, rainy day turned into a “Dark Knight” and the Mets are glad it did.
Matt Harvey, who was making his first start since undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last July, brought back memories of 2013 as he dominated the Atlanta Braves, enroute to a 6-2 win at Citifield last night.
In mid-afternoon, it was raining heavily but the forecast said the precipitation would end in the early evening, creating a window for fans to get a look at what they’ve been, for the most part, missing over the past few seasons.
It was vintage Harvey who took the mound in the top of the first as he came out firing. “He was just bangin’ strike after strike after strike,” said Braves Manager Brian Snitker after the game.
Harvey’s “strike bangers” was indicative of the command that produced first pitch strikes on the first 11 hitters that he faced. “I really tried to pound the zone,” Harvey said. In addition to consistently hitting 93-94 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, Harvey incorporated an excellent slider and a very good change-up that made his outing much more efficient. “He used all his pitches, he commanded all his pitches” Manager Terry Collins said, “everything we talked about earlier. He executed tonight right to the end.”
In 6 2/3 IP, Harvey allowed three hits but he did not walk a batter and struck out four. He went to a three-ball count on only two of the 22 batters he faced and the only two mistakes that he made were hit out of the ballpark by Atlanta left fielder Matt Kemp. “I was able to throw the fastball away, threw some good sliders and change-ups when I needed to,” Harvey said.
Of his 77 pitches, 55 were strikes. Through four innings, Harvey totaled 35 pitches and only 7 were balls. “I was able to keep it (the ball) down for the most part except for 800 feet of homeruns,” Harvey said.
The first blemish came in the top of the fifth when Kemp drove Harvey’s 38th offering over the left center field wall for a 1-0 lead. The Mets answered back in their half on Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run double and added two more in the sixth on Wilmer Flores’ two-run homerun.
In the top of the seventh, Kemp “banged a shot” off of the “S-24” sign in left field for his second of the game. (Kemp now has 3 career homeruns off of Harvey in 9 at-bats) It was Harvey’s 77th and final pitch of the game as he was lifted to a standing ovation.
Harvey’s spring had to have caused some concern among the decision makers but after seeing the “big three” perform in the opening series against Atlanta, the National League and particularly, the Mets’ competition in the East may have their own cause for concern.
Snitker agreed. “Comin’ out of spring training that’s a rough three guys to face right there,” he said, “I mean, that’s not your normal…and he (Harvey) was so good, I mean he just pounded that strike zone with everything tonight. Just mixin’ everything up and hittin’ with everything.”
The Mets did a pretty good job of holding down Freddie Freeman who had two concerns of his own in the rubber game of the series, the weather and Harvey. “He (Harvey) looked good. He was hittin’ his spots, you know in and out,” said the noted Met killer. “He threw a lot more change-ups than he normally did, a lot more sliders to righties too.”
Except for Kemp, the rest of the Braves’ lineup was 1-for-20 against Harvey. The Braves’ left fielder was 6 for 13 in the series with four doubles, two homers and four batted in. Not bad considering the pitching he was facing. “I just put some good swings on the ball,” he said, “feeling pretty good right now.”
So are the Mets about opening the season with a series win. A strange quirk in the schedule, has the Braves returning to New York in less than three weeks. Freeman took notice of what the Mets pitchers did and plans on using that knowledge when they meet again. “They (Mets pitchers) were throwing a lot more sliders than they normally do in this series so we’ll put that in our brain and see you guys in two weeks.” the Braves’ first-baseman said.