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Mets vs. Nationals recap: Harvey fires six scoreless, turns Nats into gnats

Matt Harvey's first real action in nearly twenty months did not disappoint.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Often times holidays disappoint. A lot of build-up and anticipation for what? You get together with your same family with the same issues and endure the same rehashed embarrassing stories and same old vegetables that are cold because they were done before the rest of the spread.

But today offered hope for all future holidays. It was the best of all holidays. Not just because it is the holiday that comes every five days, but because it delivered all you could ask for as a member of the Mets fan family. It delivered the kind of "same" we were actually hoping for. Matt Harvey took the hill and looked incredible in his first regular season major league action since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

And there were some enjoyable new developments that I’m sure we would like to see become traditions. The Mets beat the Nationals, they knocked around Steven Strasburg, and they sent an early season message by taking two of three games on their primary rival’s home turf. You can exhale now.

On a 47 degree day, Harvey threw 91 pitches over six shutout innings. His fastball was on right out of the gate, as his first pitch of the afternoon was 96 miles per hour and tailing. He then worked in his secondary pitches one at a time. First came the curve, which made leadoff hitter Michael Taylor his first strikeout victim of the year. He then trotted out the changeup in the second inning, locating it well. Finally, he unveiled the slider with his first pitch in the third. At this point, all four offerings were fully weaponized and ready to do damage. There were times where his command of his secondaries wasn’t the best, but when he did break one off, there was little anyone could do about it. He only allowed two baserunners after the second inning, which was the only time the Nats threatened to score against him.

With two outs and nobody on in the second, Ian Desmond turned in a nice piece of hitting, as he made solid contact even though he was late on a heater and lined it just inside the right field line for a double. Dan Uggla then hit a ball sharply down the third-base line, but David Wright made a great diving stab to save a run. Upon getting to his feet, however, Wright fired a one-hop throw wide of first base, and a diving Lucas Duda couldn’t keep his toe on the bag. But it didn’t matter. It was all just a setup for Harvey’s first big pitch of the season—a 3-2 bender which froze Jose Lobaton to end the inning.

The Mets got their offense started in the third with a series of bloops, bleeps, chop jobs, heroic bruised toes, and the requisite Ian Desmond error. But there was some good hitting mixed in. With one out, Curtis Granderson stayed in on a 2-2 hanging curve and laced a single to right-center. Wright then appeared to hit into his second double play in as many at-bats, but a ball right at Desmond skipped up on the last hop, hitting him in the chest. Desmond recovered, but Wright beat the his throw to first. Duda then got hit on his back foot on a curve that got away, loading the bases for Michael Cuddyer.

In a beautiful job of veteran hitting, Cuddyer met a low and inside fastball with a picture-perfect stroke the opposite way, sending a liner over Uggla’s head and into right field, scoring Granderson. Daniel Murphy then broke out the old Baltimore chop, smashing a bouncer off the plate which Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t do anything with once it finally came down behind the pitcher’s mound—Wright had already scored to make it 2-0.

Juan Lagares seemed a bit overeager with the bases still loaded and popped out to first. Strausburg then got Travis d'Arnaud to hit a bloop off the end of the bat, but with Taylor playing deep and around to right and Desmond sprinting out to center field, the ball found the small window between them. This brought Duda and Cuddyer home, stretching the Mets’ lead to 4-0.

Wilmer Flores struck out to end the inning, but Matt Harvey had already been given all the cushion he needed. Fully half of the outs Harvey recorded were via strikeout—he had nine in total. It would be remiss at this point if I failed to gleefully mention that Harvey struck out Bryce Harper three times, all on high fastballs.

In the end, Harvey scattered four hits and a walk over six, and one Nationals hitter reached on an error. He looked like he could have kept on trucking, as his last batter faced provided a fitting bookend for his performance—Clint Robinson struck out swinging, missing a changeup by a lot. Welcome back, Matt Harvey.

Meanwhile, Strasburg didn’t make it through the sixth. In that frame, d’Arnaud and Flores both got on top of Strasburg fastballs and cracked hard hit singles to left. The comeback of Harvey the hitter was nowhere near as good as the comeback of Harvey the pitcher, as his first bunt attempt in a year and a half resulted in a three-pitch strikeout. Granderson then continued to look every bit the part of a leadoff hitter, though, drawing his second walk of the game, bringing up Wright with the bags packed.

Strasburg had previous success busting Wright inside, shattering his bat on the first inning double play, and otherwise forcing poor contact in other at-bats. This time, the Mets' captain was sitting on that inside pitch, which Strasburg didn’t get inside enough, and he ripped a two-run single to put the Mets up 6-0.

Lefthander Xavier Cedeno then came in to face Duda, who looked uncomfortable throughout the at-bat, eventually whiffing on a 3-2 hanging curve at which the Dude took an awkward alligator-armed swing. Cuddyer struck out on a check swing on a ball in the dirt to end the inning.

Alex Torres came in to start the seventh—both he and Carlos Torres simply have ‘Torres’ on their backs, with no identifying first initial, but I guess we can tell them apart because they throw with different hands and wear different numbers. I wish his uniform was the most eventful thing to talk about after Harvey’s departure, but alas, Torres walked two of the three hitters he faced before giving way to Buddy Carlyle. After Reed Johnson flew out for the second out, Taylor crushed a full count double, scoring two and finally getting the home team on the board. With Harper looming on deck, Carlyle put out the fire by getting Yunel Escobar to bounce out to Murphy.

Murphy also recorded the last out in the bottom of the eighth, this time turning in a true web gem nominee. Shaded towards the middle of the diamond, he fielded a hard grounder on the run on the outfield grass on the shortstop side of the bag, and flung a jump-throw on the money. It was among the very best plays of his defensive career.

After Carlos Torres played the role of bridge reliever well in the eighth, Jeurys Familia came in for the ninth, even though it wasn’t a save situation. He did a pretty good Jennry Mejia impression, making things a little more interesting than he needed to, what with a leadoff double by Desmond and an RBI single by renowned Met-killer Reed Johnson, but still managed to close down shop effectively enough for the Mets to claim the series win.

Of course the biggest win anyone can claim is that Harvey Day was an overwhelming success, and that we can’t wait till the next one.

SB Nation GameThreads

* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Federal Baseball GameThread

Win Probability Added

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Big winners: Matt Harvey, +20.5% WPA, Travis d'Arnaud, +12.1% WPA, Michael Cuddyer, +11.3% WPA
Big losers: Juan Lagares, -7.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Travis d'Arnaud's two-run single in the third, +13.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: David Wright's GIDP in the first, -7.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +22.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: +27.2% WPA
GWRBI!: Travis d'Arnaud