What happens to a Harvey Day deferred? Tonight, those who observe this holiest of pitching holidays were forced to wait an extra 90 minutes while rush hour showers petered out, delaying Matt Harvey's first ever Subway Series start. They were also delayed in witnessing any Met other than Harvey display simple competence of any kind. But those who stuck it out were rewarded, as are all those who keep Harvey Day in their hearts all year round.
We often hear about players who rooted for the Mets as kids, only to come back and destroy them later. Far more rare are players like Harvey, who grew up a Yankees fan, then found himself in a position to put a hurt on the Bronx Bombers on a big stage. It was obvious from the first pitch that Harvey was determined to do just that. As is so often the case, however, for the majority of the night his teammates' determination was sorely lacking.
Matt Harvey breezed through the Yankees in the top of the first, retiring them in order on 8 pitches and displaying a 92 mph slider like it was no big deal. He retired the Yanks in order again in the second, while fanning Lyle Overbay and David Adams looking, painting the black on both batters with 97+ fastballs. Again, NBD, guys.
Reid Brignac (a Yankee, apparently) turned in a tough at-bat before singling to start off the top of the third. Harvey responded by fanning Chris Stewart on another nasty slider, then did the same to his opposite number, Hirkoi Kuroda, as the pitcher attempted to lay down a sac bunt. Brett Gardner went the other way with a two-out single to bring up Robinson Cano, but Harvey took care of him on yet another slider. A return to form followed in the fourth, as Harvey set down the Yanks 1-2-3 while adding another strikeout of Overbay to his ledger.
As often happens on Harvey Day, a true celebration depends on the good graces of the lineup supporting him, which is seldom up to the task, and especially not when facing a pitcher like Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda has been enjoying another fine season in pinstripes, but he got roughed up in his most recent start in Baltimore, before taking a line drive off his calf to add injury to insult. He's also been known to suffer from First Inning Issues, but facing a Mets lineup can be good for what ails any pitcher.
Tonight, Kuroda ceded one-out singles to Daniel Murphy and David Wright in the bottom of the first, but allowed nothing else. Kuroda had an easier time of it in the second, with two groundouts and a K of the player formerly known as Ike Davis, and retired the Mets in order once more in the third. Lucas Duda collected an odd one-out single off of Kuroda's glove in the fourth, but the pitcher escaped danger with a pair of pop ups. He then went back to gently rocking the Mets back to sleep in the fifth, setting them down in order while striking out two.
Harvey would not find trouble again until the top of the fifth, and the trouble that followed was not of his doing. Ichiro reached first to start the inning when Ruben Tejada fielded his slow grounder and made a bad throw that pulled Ike Davis off the bag (the first of several brain cramps for Tejada). Harvey did not flinch, however, as he got Brignac to fly out and struck out Stewart and Kuroda on high heat, bringing his K total up to 7.
But even Harvey's magic can not ford all troubled waters. Gardner started off the top of the sixth with a clean single to right field, and Harvey's job was made unnecessarily difficult when Marlon Byrd bobbled the ball. There was nothing particularly difficult about the play; Byrd simply let the ball clank off his glove and roll behind him. This is not the kind of thing you want to do ever, and certainly not on Harvey Day.
Gardner made his way to second easily, then moved to third on a Cano groundout. Harvey got a huge out when Vernon Wells fouled out to Davis, but Overbay, who'd looked completely overmatched in his earlier at bats, knocked a single up the middle that finally put a run on the board. Harvey struck out the next batter, then stomped his way to the dugout, more mad at himself for giving up the two-out hit than furious at Byrd for his boo-boo. As of this writing, the run was considered earned, a scoring decision that provoked some debate in the SNY booth. Earned or not, the run would still be on the board, and it certainly looked like one run too many for the Mets' sakes.
And then, a break! Tejada reached base to start the bottom of the sixth when Cano whoopsie-daisy'ed a sharply hit ball to his left. And then, an un-break! Murphy gave one a ride to left-center, but for the second game in a row, he was robbed by an amazing running catch by Gardner. This one wouldn't have gone out of the park, but it certainly would have tied the game had Gardner not made an spectacular grab. Horseshoes and hand grenades, as they say.
But lo, another break! Chris Stewart allowed a passed ball that put Tejada on second, which put Wright in a position to tie the game on a hit. But lo, the break broke. Wright struck out on a splitter in the dirt, a pitch Kuroda did much damage with all night. Then the break broke further when Tejada was picked off second base by roughly three miles, which he naturally would be in a game like this. Second base ump Adrian Johnson initially called him safe, then punched him out (correctly), which prompted Terry Collins to storm out of the dugout and lose his mind. Collins was ejected for his insolence, an ejection he may have forced just so he wouldn't have to see any more idiocy like Tejada getting thrown out at second with the cleanup batter at the plate.
Harvey pitched a perfect top of the seventh, despite getting nailed in the back by an Ichiro comebacker. (Half a second after throwing to first for the out, he angrily waved off the approach of the trainer like it was a swarm of gnats.) But Kuroda continued in a similar vein, putting up another 0 in the bottom half while working around a Rick Ankiel single.
Harvey came back for the top of the eighth and retired the first two batters easily, striking out pinch hitter Travis Hafner for his 10th K of the evening. Cano reached him for a single, then Vernon Wells hit a ball up the middle that Murphy and Tejada both refused to touch for some reason, allowing Cano to run all the way to third. Harvey ended his night by getting Overbay to fly out, keeping the score 1-0 and putting a fine cap on an outing where he would not have been blamed for murdering half of his teammates.
David Robertson took Kuroda's place on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, one day after his rough eighth inning gave the Mets an unexpected win. He actually allowed Ike Davis to make contact on a groundout, making it the first time Ike hadn't struck out in this series. Other than that, though, Robertson had nothing close to trouble with the Mets batters he faced tonight.
Scott Rice had the unenviable task of following Harvey's act in the top of the ninth. He saw Ichiro bounce a ball toward second base that went as a one-out infield single, but picked off Ichiro on a stolen base attempt, then fanned Brignac to end the inning.
This set up what would surely be Mariano Rivera's last ever appearance in Queens, barring a change of heart on his retirement plans or the existence of a bizarro universe where teams as bad as the Mets are make the playoffs. Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight's game, a gesture that bugged some people who I assume have no other problems to worry about. Though to be fair, I think this rankled Mets fans who believe that the team's management does a better job of honoring opponents than their own greats, a charge that is not without merit.
In any case, Rivera came on for the save opportunity, having not blown a single one yet this season. Had you seen the rest of this game, you'd have been forgiven for turning off the TV at the first strains of "Enter Sandman." But oh ye of little faith, trust in your heart that miracles do happen on Harvey Day.
Murphy started things off by going the other way against Mariano, dunking a ground rule double down the left field line. David Wright got ahead in the count, then slashed a ball up the middle to send Murphy home with the tying run. Gardner's relay throw got past Stewart, and when Mariano failed to back the catcher up, Wright scurried to second. Lucas Duda followed by lining a 1-1 pitch to right field. Ichiro's throw home was far too late to nail Wright, and somehow the Mets had pulled off a 2-1 win. No, really. Check the box score, it happened, I swear.
This marked the first time in Mariano Rivera's illustrious career that he blew a save in which he hadn't recorded an out. Think about that. Think about how many times you've seen a Mets closer come into the game to seal a win, only to completely implode and not retire a batter. From John Franco to Armando Benitez to Braden Looper to Billy Wagner to K-Rod to Frank Francisco. You have seen each of these people do it multiple times. You can still see them do it when you close your eyes. And Mariano Rivera had never committed such an offense in his entire career, until tonight. Yankees fans have not seen such carnage in almost 20 years. It's almost unfathomable.
Perhaps Mariano is also a believer in Harvey Day? How else to explain a team that played so miserably for 8 innings striking back against the best closer of all time? Before long, Harvey shall make believers of them all.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: David Wright, +32.6%, Matt Harvey, +23.2%,
Big losers: John Buck, -9.4%, Ike Davis, -9.0%
Teh aw3s0mest play: David Wright RBI single, bottom 9th, +37.8%
Teh sux0rest play: Lyle Overbay RBI single, bottom 6th, -16.3%
Total pitcher WPA: +26.3+
Total batter WPA: +23.7%
GWRBI!: Lucas Duda RBI single, bottom 9th