The rest of this Mets season is about process, not results. It has been for a long time. Tonight's game was a prime example. If Matt Harvey pitched well, whether the Mets won or lost was immaterial. As it turned out, Harvey pitched better than well. He had an excellent outing, putting a bow on his rookie season. So why did this one hurt so much?
Harvey's night did not begin auspiciously. Jimmy Rollins might look ordinary (at best) against most of the National League, but that never seems to matter when he plays in Queens, He still has a knack of doing bad things to the Mets, and he led off this game with a home run that cleared the fence in right-center by the narrowest of margins and immediately put a damper on Harvey's last start of the season.
With that hiccup out of the way, Harvey went back to being his usual promising self. The rest of the first inning passed without incident, and after he seemed to overthrow and walk Carlos Ruiz to start the second, he escaped with a K and a GIDP. He then settled in nicely, retiring the side in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, doing so efficiently in all instances. Harvey didn't allow another baserunner until the top of the sixth, when he issued a free pass to Kevin Frandsen and another to Jimmy Rollins one out later. He bailed himself out by getting Juan Pierre to hit into a double play.
Ruben Tejada contributed his own leadoff hit in the bottom of the first, but he was confined to a single, and the next three batters went down without a fight. Ditto the three men who technically batted in the second, and the first two in the third. Tejada singled with two outs in that frame, however, then stole second. Daniel Murphy followed with a single to shallow left, which really shouldn't have driven in a run. Luckily for the Mets, Pierre was playing left, and his seven-bounce throw plus some hustle from Tejada led to the tying run.
The Mets looked poised for more in the fourth when Scott Hairston led off with a double and Ike Davis hit an infield single off of Cole Hamels' glove. However, starting a disturbing trend that would continue all night, Hamels fanned the next two batters and induced a weak popup from Andres Torres. Mets batters were set down in order once again in the fifth. It took TRAID-bait David Wright to give the Mets the lead, as he started the bottom of the sixth with a home run into the bullpen. It's always nice to see Wright go deep, but of course, the Mets could not capitalize on an opportunity to score more. Immediately after Wright's homer, Hairston was plunked and stole second (actually reached safely when the Phils picked him off yet failed to throw him out), but his teammates could not move him along.
Given a lead, Harvey was allowed one more inning in this game, and his season. He finished with a flourish, getting the Phils in order in the seventh, striking out the last two batters he faced--Ryan Howard and Ruiz--and still throwing 98 while doing it. Rollins' first inning homer was the only hit he allowed on the night, giving him a 2.73 ERA for the season, and his 7 strikeouts brought his final total up to 70 in 59 1/3 innings. Not too shabby, folks. If you want to stop reading here, I would not blame you.
Harvey was impressive on the mound, his teammate in the batter's box less so. Antonio Bastardo and Justin De Fratus combined for a scoreless seventh out of the Phils' bullpen, negotiating around a two-out walk from Daniel Murphy. In the eighth, a pair of singles by Hairston and Davis put runners on the corners with nobody out and put the Mets in prime position to pad their slim lead. But after Philippe Aumont struck out Kelly Shoppach, Jeremy Horst induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Andres Torres, who is easily approaching Jason Bay-levels of offensive ineptitude.
As little production as the Mets' bats managed, it looked like that just might be enough. In the eighth, Bobby Parnell worked around a bloop hit and an airmailed relay throw on what should have been a double player grounder to keep the Phillies off the board. (Imagine, bad luck not causing Parnell to implode!) With Frank Francisco out of commission with some damn thing or another and a slew of lefties due up in the ninth, Josh Edgin was given save duties. He struck out Rollins and Ty Wigginton, then backed Chase Utley into a full count before walking him. That brought up Howard, who'd looked pretty awful against Harvey all night. Edgin, lefty though he might be, is no Harvey, and Howard clubbed one of his offerings off the Pepsi Porch for a go-ahead two-run homer.
A brutal outcome in a season full of them, if an entirely predictable one. Even Gary, Keith, and Ron, who can make the most meaningless games enjoyable, sounded utterly stunned and disgusted by this turn of events. Jon Rauch got the last out in the top of the ninth, for all the good it did. Tejada reached Jonathan Papelbon for a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth, but Domonic Brown--normally as mobile as a Chuck E. Cheese band member--somehow caught a Murphy fly ball that was destined for the left field corner. Wright was retired on a grounder for the final out, sending all 37 paying customers home unhappy.
The Mets have played so awfully the last few months, they haven't even had an opportunity for a gut-punch loss like tonight's. So kudos for showing us we still care, I guess.
Big winners: Matt Harvey, +32.2%, Ruben Tejada, +12.7%
Big losers: Josh Edgin, -66.0%, Andres Torres, -19.6%
Teh aw3s0mest play: David Wright solo homer, bottom sixth, +17.4%
Teh sux0rest play: Ryan Howard two-run HR, top ninth, -74.0%
Total pitcher WPA: -21.2%
Total batter WPA: -28.8%
GWRBI!: Ryan Howard two-run HR, top ninth