Matt Harvey is, at times, the Fleetwood Mac of pitchers: sometimes when he performs, it seems entirely fed by the ridiculous amount of drama surrounding him. Tonight, with all the talk of his dead arm and his discontent with a six-man rotation, Harvey came out and pitched with a purpose from the moment he stepped on the mound. Though he certainly made mistakes, there were definitely things to like about Harvey’s start tonight. And let's just remember that as we look back on this contest in the coming days.
It looked like the result was going to be much less mixed than that for the first three innings. To start off, Dee Gordon, who leads the majors with a .376 average, struck out on three pitches. Martin Prado struck out on five. Giancarlo Stanton, possibly sensing the way things were going, struck out on three pitches to just get Harvey off the mound. The second and third innings played out in a similar fashion, with Harvey striking out three more Marlins on his way to a perfect first third of the game.
At this point, it didn’t matter that Dan Haren had held the Mets to one hit through his first three innings of work. It didn’t matter that the Marlins had the top of their lineup coming up again in the top of the fourth. None of that mattered because Matt Harvey seemingly had his best stuff, and when that happens, one pities the poor saps who must stand there and face him. Sadly though, the fourth inning had to be played. And what was a beautiful performance descended into something far less magnificent.
It all began with Dee Gordon bunting to record the Marlins’ first hit of the night. Now I have no problem with players bunting for a base hit. In fact, most of the time I feel it’s a pretty savvy and exciting move. But when it’s your second at-bat of the game, you’ve been made to look inept in your previous at-bat, and you lead the major leagues in hitting; irrespective of the result, it rings of a weak ignobility. (What I really mean is it's irritating Dee Gordon can bunt and is fast.)
However annoying as it was, Gordon’s bunt did not put three runs on the board. That was accomplished when, with Prado having walked to join Gordon on the basepaths, Justin Bour came up and put the first pitch he saw into the seats in right field, barely hooking it around the foul pole in fair territory. It was a bad pitch, a hanging breaking ball over the middle of the plate to a cleanup hitter, and Harvey paid for it. After that, the Dark Knight didn’t exactly fall apart, but he did let up another run in the top of the fifth, and his air of invincibility was dispelled. Though he ended up pitching eight innings, and struck out a season-high eleven Marlins over the course of his night, his start left a bad taste in your mouth.
To his credit, Lucas Duda came up in the bottom of the fourth and sent a moonshot to the Pepsi Porch to give the Mets a run. Then, in the sixth, Curtis Granderson cut the Marlins lead in half with another solo home run, and Ruben Tejada got on to bring the Dude to the plate as the tying run. There was no power this time around, though, as Duda struck out and Daniel Murphy grounded in to the Mets’ 436th double play of the season to end the only threat the Mets could mount against Haren all night.
Though the game was unexpectedly disappointing, one hoped that the Mets offense would—in a poetic justice kind of way—pick up their ace after all the times they’d let him down this season. And in the ninth, they made a valiant effort. Ruben Tejada led off with a great at-bat against A.J. Ramos that culminated in a base hit up the middle to bring up Duda. Though the big man struck out again, Ruben—barely—stole second on a passed ball. The pitch bounced into J.T. Realumuto’s hand after getting by him, and he threw a one-hop strike to second. Tejada may or may not have gotten away from the tag, but the umpire called him safe, and Dan Jennings—bizarrely—chose not to challenge.
Daniel Murphy followed Duda, and hit a blooper in between Christian Yelich and Adeiny Hechavarria that brought in Tejada to put the tying run on second with one out. Sadly, Murph went no further, as Ramos struck out Cuddyer and got Wilmer Flores to ground out to first to end the game. In doing so, he put the finishing touches on a rather depressing Harvey Day.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Ruben Tejada +13.3% WPA; Daniel Murphy +3.6% WPA
Big losers: Matt Harvey -19.7% WPA; Wilmer Flores -18.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy double, bottom of the ninth
Teh sux0rest play: Justin Bour homer, top of the fourth
Total pitcher WPA: -18.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: -31.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Martin Prado single, top of the fifth