Strikeouts are exciting. If I may use a baseball analogy, they're like the home runs of getting guys to not hit home runs. But K's usually require a lot of pitches. If Matt Harvey has garnered any criticism in a brilliant season, it's from seeking the strikeout over pitching to contact.
Tonight, Harvey stayed away from the strikeout, fanning only 6 batters. The pure excitement seen in other games he's pitched this season (the Nationals/HARVEY'S BETTER! tilt springs to mind) was decidedly absent for most of the evening. He relied on grounders instead, recording 14 groundball outs before all was said and done.
Harvey toyed with the Rockies tonight, but in a very un-Harvey way, preferring quiet dominance (if there is such a thing) over showy swing-and-misses. And by the end, he had the crowd on its feet anyway, as if they'd just witnessed one of his 12 K gems. He seemed to be doing it simply to prove he could do it.
Harvey began quickly but quietly, setting the Rockies down in order in the first. In second, he retired Troy Tulowitzki on one pitch and Todd Helton on a comebacker, A two-out single from Wilin Rosario delivered the "not tonight, boss," but Harvey used a grounder to retire the next batter, as he would all night.
Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin has been hot of late, owner of a 7-2 record since June 1 with a 2.24 ERA to match. He's been especially good when away from Coors Field (as pitchers tend to be). Like Harvey tonight, he tended toward the groundball over the strikeout and used it to great effect. Unlike Harvey, Chacin let his guard for a few damaging moments that would seal his fate.
After a mostly quiet first inning (a Daniel Murphy single but nought else), Chacin stumbled briefly in the second, beginning with a one-out single by Wilmer Flores, the youngster's first major league hit. Flores went to third when John Buck flared a hit to shallow center, then scored on an Omar Quintanilla single.
The rally ended there, as Harvey bunted into a double play. Harvey remains better suited for the mound, and proved that in the top of the fourth by setting down the Rockies in order again, including a K of Dexter Fowler. In the top of the fourth, Harvey allowed another two-out single (this time to Michael Cuddyer). This one proved as harmless as the first once he struck out Helton to end the frame.
Chacin walked Eric Young to start the bottom of the third, but lucked out when Young ran on a Murphy liner, turning it into an easy double play. The luck turned in the Mets' favor in the fourth, however, when Ike Davis dropped a one-out double just fair down the left field line. Then with two out, Buck zipped a single into right. Davis chugged his way toward the plate and scored standing up, extending the Mets' lead to 2-0.
The Rockies righty looked impressive the rest of the way, a one-out Young single in the bottom of the fifth his only baserunner allowed. Chacin retired the Mets in order again in the sixth and the seventh, striking out the side in the latter inning. When he exited the game, Chacin (not known as a striekout pitcher) had only one fewer K than Harvey. But he made the mistake of being merely very good on a night when Harvey was nearly perfect.
Harvey kept on rolling with an efficient 1-2-3 top of the fifth. The sixth began with a strikeout of his opposite number, then two more quick outs. There was no glimpse of the Harvey we've come to know until the seventh. With the finish line in sight, he ended another baserunner-free inning with a strikeout of Helton. Then he opened the eighth with by fanning Wilin Rosario on high heat. The next batter, Nolan Arenado, hit a bouncer to the shortstop hole and was called safe on a close play at first (incorrectly, replays showed). Harvey paid it no mind, though, and two pitches later he induced a bouncer to short for a GIDP.
Manny Corpas took over mound duties for the Rockies in the bottom of the eighth. Juan Lagares walked against him and would have scored on a long two-out Byrd hit to center if the ball hadn't bounced over the outfield wall for a ground rule double. If Colorado caught a break there, the Mets caught one of their own when the Rockies opted to walk Ike "Almost Batting .200" Davis and face the rookie Flores instead. On a 2-2 count, Flores lashed a Corpas slider down the left field line. That cleared the bases, gave Flores his first double and first RBIs, and pushed the Mets' lead to 5-0.
A five-run lead virtually guaranteed Harvey would finish what he started. As he had all night, Harvey retired the first two batters of the ninth quickly on grounders. The third batter, Charlie Blackmon, tried to spoil the party by lacing a single off the side of Harvey's left knee. Per Harvey custom, he almost immediately waved off the trainer. Blackmon advanced to second on defensive indifference, marking it the first and only time a Colorado baserunner would make it that far. Harvey went full to Troy Tulowitzki, then got him to hit a pop up to second for the final out.
Next time out, maybe Harvey will toss 7 scoreless with his eyes closed. You know, just to prove he can do that, too.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Matt Harvey, +45.9%, Omar Quintanilla, +8.3%
Big losers: Matt Harvey (batting), -11.9%, Juan Lagares, -8.9%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Omar Quintanilla RBI single, bottom second, +10.3%
Teh sux0rest play: Michael Cuddyer single, top fourth, -1.6%
Total pitcher WPA: #+45.9
Total batter WPA: +4.1
GWRBI!:Omar Quintanilla RBI single, bottom second