While New York’s Game 2 loss to the Dodgers left a bad taste in their fans’ mouths, Matt Harvey can be the one to redeem his franchise.
By Bryan Pol
Thanks to a 10-2 thrashing of the Cincinnati Reds on September 26, the New York Mets, behind a Lucas Duda grand slam and a Curtis Granderson solo shot, won their first National League East title in nine years, eventually besting the Washington Nationals by a full seven games at season’s end.
On the mound that Saturday afternoon was troubled ace Matt Harvey, who, only a week earlier, stirred controversy with talk, exacerbated by agent Scott Boras, that he either was or would be placed on a strict innings limit, fixed at an arbitrary mark of 180 frames (in light of his final regular season start last Saturday against the Nationals, Harvey would ultimately eclipse 189 innings pitched on the year).
No matter the harm he caused his reputation in New York, Harvey, both sharp and effective in his efforts, was the winning pitcher against the Reds, clinching the franchise’s sixth-ever division title, its first since 2006.
For Game 3 on Monday, on the heels of a Game 2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday evening, a defeat mired in controversy over Chase Utley’s wayward slide into shortstop Ruben Tejada, Matt Harvey will essentially christen Citi Field, which will enjoy its first postseason action in the building’s history. Citi Field was open for its inaugural year in 2009, the same season the New York Yankees began play in the new Stadium, which ended in much fanfare: a World Series title won in vanquishing Utley’s Philadelphia Phillies.
Whether or not the Mets can punctuate this postseason with a championship of their own rests on what Harvey is called upon to do in Game 3: win.
For all intents and purposes, Matt Harvey’s legacy with the Mets hinges on his performance before a home crowd thirsting for vengeance against Utley’s Dodgers, who scored four runs in Saturday’s seventh inning en route to a 5-2 victory, effectively erasing a strong performance from rookie Noah Syndergaard, who notched a quality start in allowing three runs off of five hits and four walks, managing nine strikeouts behind truly electric stuff (several times, Thor hit triple digits on the radar gun).
To regard Harvey’s Game 3 start as “pivotal” is a gross understatement, especially since Harvey caused another row by arriving late to a mandatory practice session last Monday.
Any discussion of frailty, truancy, or ambivalence related to Matt Harvey will be expunged by his pitching well enough for the Mets to win and take a commanding 2-1 series lead with Game 4 and a chance to close out the NLDS looming on Tuesday.
On Monday, Harvey need not channel Tom Seaver or even rotation mate Jacob deGrom, brilliant over seven scoreless innings in Game 1 behind 13 strikeouts, tied for the most punchouts by a Mets starter in the franchise’s postseason history (with none other than Seaver).
Matthew Edward Harvey simply needs to mimic his September performance at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark by pitching remarkably enough to lead his Mets to victory, the triumph over the Reds being his last win despite notching 11 strikeouts and allowing no earned runs on an historic night last Saturday for Max Scherzer, who hurled a no-hitter on the strength of 17 Ks of his own.
Harvey, at 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts in 189 1/3 innings on the season (he is third on the club with 4.1 Wins Above Replacement, behind deGrom and Granderson), has a decided advantage over the Dodgers’ Brett Anderson, who pitched to less-than-sensational results in 2015 (a 3.69 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 101 ERA+—a 100 ERA+ is considered average).
He is long past the point of worrying about the strength of his elbow coming off Tommy John surgery that deprived him of a full season’s worth of baseball in 2014. If he wishes to deprive himself of any further detriment to his reputation provoked by off-field issues in September, Harvey would do well to pitch a gem on Monday.
No question he will have the support of a packed house in Citi Field, roaring in response to every one of his efforts.
For better or worse, the legacy of the Mets’ proclaimed “Dark Knight” begins on Monday. For New York fans, they hope it begins in victory.
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