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Mets spring training recap: The Dark Knight Returns, Gotham wins 5-4

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Matt Harvey looked very strong, beating up the baddies at will. Some other stuff happened; mere subplots, really.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon Matt Harvey dispatched the Tigers with ease, like so many of Catwoman’s henchmen from the ‘60s camp show. Noah Syndergaard, on the other hand, looked the part of Thor in his first inning, but spent much of his second inning asking around, "Who moved my hammer? C’mon guys, I’m kinda average without it." (Maybe he should have asked Bobby Parnell.) To continue to stretch the comics allusion more tenuously, Darkhorse’s own Matt Reynolds showed off a surprising power of mysterious origin, clubbing a walk-off homer.

So let the over-analysis of highly-anticipated pitchers’ preseason debuts begin!

Harvey appeared wearing a matching black glove and cleat ensemble, both with blue trim and an orange Nike logo, significant because he wore neither in public at any time in the previous 18 months.

More to the point: Harvey flat out dominated for his two innings of work. He retired all six hitters he faced, striking half of them out. He consistently pounded the strike zone with his heater, with his final fastball topping out at 99. He also located his curveball masterfully, with his last two being absolutely nasty 12-to-6 hooks. Basically those last three pitches made you feel bad for anyone victim Bryan Holaday has ever known. He threw his slider four times, missing on all of them. It also didn't have the snap and movement which he had previously sported in his utility belt (okay, I’ll stop now), but he did work with it between 88 and 90, especially nice since some reports last month said he wouldn't even try to throw it until the end of March.

Just to scare the rest of baseball, consider that this is Harvey on the mend.  That's pretty much all there is to say on Harvey's day.

Meanwhile, Syndergaard flashed the stuff that makes the scouts drool, with a (sometimes) killer bender and notable late life on his fastball. Unfortunately, that late life made a couple of his tosses hard for teammates to handle, and he looked the part of the rookie as he struggled to stay on top of the game when some obstacles were dropped in his path.

The 22-year-old tore through his first inning, hitting 97 with his fastball and not allowing solid contact once. His most impressive sequence of the inning below, against Andrew Romine:

Pitch 1: Hard biting bender with a late break, 84 MPH, right down the middle. Strike one.

Pitch 2: 86 MPH change low and away. Ball one.

Pitch 3: 97 MPH fastball grooved down the middle. Late swing and a foul. Strike two.

Pitch 4: 83 MPH big ol’ yakker, started at the eyes and ended at the knees on the inside corner. Romine looked on helplessly. Strike three.

As dominant as he looked in this first frame, Syndergaard was consistently a step behind the action in his second. Andrew Gose spanked a solid single to the opposite field to lead off. Then a pickoff attempt zipped by Cuddyer’s glove, sending Gose to third. Iglesias then also went opposite field, singling Gose home. At this point, Syndergaard seemed to zero in on the hitter and pretty much ignore the baserunner. This led to a big jump and easy steal of second by Iglesias.

The feathers on the side of Thor’s helmet appeared to be ruffled (I assumed they were metal?), as he showed erratic control en route to walking Rajai Davis–almost hitting him on the last pitch. After inducing a pop out, he fired a high fastball that got by D’Arnaud to the backstop, advancing the runners. It was unclear if there was a mix-up on the signals or just the location, as D’Arnaud had his glove set up low, but there was a quick talk at the hill at this point. It didn’t seem to help, as he surrendered a walk on the next pitch to load the bases.

Throughout this entire sequence, he threw fastballs almost exclusively – reinforcing reports that he reverts a ‘one-pitch pitcher’ when he’s in trouble. Perhaps the bright spot here is that we’re talking about his pitch selection and not his sandwich selection.

Holaday hit a sac fly to center to plate the second run of the inning (Lagares didn’t try to test his arm on a fairly shallow fly), but Syndergaard seemed to settle back down at this point. Seeing Daniel Fields for the second time, he mixed pitches and speeds nicely, working all around the zone during a 10 pitch at-bat that ended with a devastating 3-2 curve taken for strike three.

All told, he went ‘deuces wild’ this afternoon – 2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks. A mixed bag, but plenty of promise.

Yeah, some other guys played, too – while spitting in the faces of their baseball ancestors by not wearing stirrups.

Some other notes:

*The Mets’ pretend first basemen had a bad pretend game. In addition to Cuddyer whiffing on a very catchable pickoff throw, Eric Campbell failed miserably to pick two balls out of the dirt when he took over – one in which he had his glove turned the wrong way, and one which would have been a double play. Keith assured us that those throws ‘would not have been a problem if I was in there.’ Campbell did have a nice over the shoulder snag on a foul pop near the stands in right field, though.

*If the hitting approach the team showed today is indicative of new hitting coach Kevin Long’s impact, he’s getting it done. Hitters showed great pitch and location recognition, stayed on the ball, and hit it where it was pitched (seriously, it was consistent across the board): the most dramatic example being formerly pull-happy Curtis Granderson, who deftly went opposite field for an RBI single.

*Leadoff hopeful Juan Lagares singled and scored a run and also drew a walk in 3 plate appearances.

*Wilmer Flores hit two singles in three at bats, and looked calm and locked in during a clutch at bat with runners on in the seventh – he was robbed of an RBI by poor baserunning by Xorge Carrillo.

*Jenrry Mejia’s hair made its competitive debut. It looked awesome, and his slider was in midseason form on a strikeout of Romine to work out of a minor jam in his only inning.

*Daniel Murphy left the game after being hit on the hand with a pitch in the second inning. It seemed to be only a precautionary measure, as he looked fine. Alex Castellanos did not look fine after an HBP, leaving the game in quite a bit of pain.

*Matt den Dekker tied the game in the seventh with a two-run double which was really just a fly ball that right fielder Connor Harrell took a bad route to.

*Reynolds’ heroics went beyond the ordinary. Yes, he took a thigh-high fastball out over the plate and simply mashed that tater, thus avoiding extra innings. But there weren’t going to be extra innings anyway – the two teams had already decided to call it quits after nine. So salute Matt Reynolds right now for precluding the most unpatriotic ending in all of sports – a tie.

GameThread Roll Call

Nice job by amazins8669; his effort in the GameThread embiggens us all.

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