Less than a month into the season, Matt Harvey starts have already taken on the feeling of holidays. Every five days, Mets fans get psyched up to experience childlike wonderment and whimsy, and compare our respective household rituals. Do you open your Matt Harvey Day presents on Matt Harvey Eve or Matt Harvey Morning? Tonight was deserving of such treatment for 5 2/3 stellar innings, but then Harvey decided to remind us that every time can't be a holiday. If every day was like Matt Harvey Day, Matt Harvey Day wouldn't be so special, would it?
In the top of the first, Harvey allowed a one-out hit to the suddenly immortal Mark Ellis. Before this single, batters had been 0 for 24 in the first two innings against Harvey. Adrian Gonzalez then hit a single of his own that moved Ellis to third, followed by a slow Matt Kemp grounder to short that allowed Ellis to trot home with the game's first run.
A clearly bugged Harvey fanned Andre Ethier on three pitches to end the frame. He then set down LA batters 1-2-3 in the second and third, fanning three more and breaking off some impressive curves and sliders along the way. He added another K in the top of the fourth and retired the first batters before allowing a single to Andre Ethier, but induced an inning-ending grounder from Jerry Hairston. In the fifth, he was perfect once more, adding a pair of Ks to his total.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly was making his first appearance since May of last year, but for most of the evening Mets batters did their best to make him feel at home, as the Mets batters have against junk-balling lefties since time immemorial. Lilly retired the Mets in order in the first on seven pitches, and though he loaded the bases in the second, he fanned two hitters and stranded three. In the third, a two-out walk and stolen base by David Wright went by the wayside when John Buck struck out swinging. More of the same in the fourth, as a two-out Duda double was wasted when rookie Juan Lagares tapped out to Lilly.
At this point, Harvey decided he needed to take matters into his own hands and led off the bottom of the fifth with a booming double off the wall in left field. Ruben Tejada then snapped a dreadful slump by sneaking a single down the first base line, driving in Harvey to tie things up at 1. When Daniel Murphy followed with a single, the Mets appeared to be poised to take the lead.
Then, the Dodgers lodged a lengthy complaint to the umpires about faulty bullpen phones in their dugout. You know, the kind of technological malfunction that should totally be happening in sporting event in the year 2013. You'd expect a silly delay like this to mess with the pitcher, but it seemed to do more damage to Mets hitters. Or at least more damage than they'd already done to themselves. After the phone snafu, Wright struck out on three pitches, Buck hit into a force out, and Ike Davis went down swinging to end the inning.
After his trip around the bases, Harvey retired the first two batters in the top of the sixth, then issued his first walk of the evening to Gonzalez. It proved a crucial mistake, as the next batter, Kemp, went opposite field to deposit a home run into the lonely corner near the right field foul pole usually reserved for Chase Utley. The shot was disputed by the umps because the ball had bounced onto the field after caroming off a security guard beyond the fence. Or maybe because it was Kemp's first homer of the season and the umps could barely believe it took this long for Kemp to go deep. In any case, after an unnecessary video review confirmed the home run, Harvey retired Ethier to end the inning, but the Dodgers now held a 3-1 lead. Thanks to Kemp's homer, Harvey's ERA leaped all the way to 1.54. He was also in line for the loss.
Lilly departed in the bottom of the sixth, and while the Mets were surely happy to see him go, they didn't do much to show it. Jay Howell took Lilly's place and promptly walked the first two batters of the inning, then got his glove on a Lagares groundout that might have resulted in a GIDP had he not touched it. Justin Turner was announced as the pinch hitter for Harvey, which prompted Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (that phrase will always look weird to me) to call on righty reliever Ronald Belisario. Rather than burn a pinch hitter, Terry Collins stuck with Turner, and the ginger one trolled us all again with an RBI sac fly to center. The rally ended there, however, and Belisario returned in the seventh to retire the Mets in order with a pair of strikeouts.
The Mets bullpen kept Dodgers batters in check the rest of the way in regulation. No really, they did! LaTroy Hawkins took down the Dodgers on 8 pitches in the top of the seventh, while Scott Rice needed just 10 pitches to do the same in the top of the eighth. Rice also got the first out in the top of the ninth before giving way to Scott "Your Dad's Boss" Atchison, who walked Kemp but retired the next two batters.
It seemed like this sudden rash of competence from Mets relievers might go for nought. In the bottom of the eighth, Kenley Jansen allowed Marlon Byrd to hit a one-out double over Carl Crawford's head. But the Mets were foiled once more by Mark Ellis, as he smothered a hard grounder from Duda, thus saving the tying run form scoring. Pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin then put in quality at bat by swinging at the first pitch, dribbling it to first to extinguish the threat.
Brandon League came on to get the save in the bottom of the ninth and backed pinch hitter Mike Baxter into an 0-2 hole. Then, Whitestone's Own hit a ball to shallow left that Crawford could not quite handle. While Crawford struggled to come up with the ball, Baxter hustled all the way to second. A Tejada sac bunt put the tying run 90 feet away, whereupon Murphy hit a foul along the third base line that Jerry Hairston reached into the stands to grab. That made the Tejada bunt look awful foolish in retrospect, but Wright bailed out the old school approach by lining League's first pitch into right-center for a game-tying single. Then, Wright got a little too paleolithic and was thrown out by a mile trying to steal his way into scoring position. Into extra innings we went.
Bobby Parnell took over in the top of the tenth and attempted to Parnell it up by losing catcher A.J. Ellis to a walk. The Dodgers sent up Clayton Kershaw to bunt Ellis into scoring position, which he did. Parnell shook it off by striking out Crawford looking and inducing an inning-ending grounder from Skip Schumaker. I'll excuse some shakiness from Parnell, since he only gets to pinch once every month.
In the bottom of the tenth, the Dodgers called on Josh Wall, who'd looked rather impressive on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, however, he allowed a leadoff single to Buck, then walked Davis (yes, it can be done). Byrd laid down a sac bunt, which gave LA little choice but to intentionally walk Duda and face Valdespin. All Jordany needed to do was lift a long fly to score the winning run, although it would have to be deep to make sure the slow-footed Buck could tag up and score. So rather than chance it, Valdespin smacked a ball that bounced over the Mo's Zone in right field. It was the Mets' first walkoff grand slam since 1991, when Kevin McReynolds performed the feat. And yes, he was permitted to round the bases.
So to review: The Mets lost a game last night in which they somehow scored some runs off of Clayton Kershaw. Tonight, they won a game in which their opponent somehow scored some runs off of Matt Harvey. Say, this was a great holiday after all! This is why Matt Harvey Night is different from all nights.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: David Wright, +26.6%; Miek Baxter, +24.3%
Big losers: Daniel Murphy, -25.6%; Matt Harvey, -15.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jordany Valdepsin walkoff grand slam, bottom tenth. +27.3%
Teh sux0rest play: Matt Kemp two-run homer, top sixth, -18.9%
Total pitcher WPA: 9.6%
Total batter WPA: 40.4%
GWRBI!: Jordany Valdepsin walkoff grand slam, bottom tenth