Here at Amazin’ Avenue, we’re marking the 10-year anniversary of Matt Harvey’s transcendent 2013 season by spending the year looking back at each of Harvey’s amazing 26 starts that season, one by one, on the anniversary day of each start. We’ll re-live one of the best pitching seasons in Mets history, from its zenith to its tragic end.
Today, we continue the series with Harvey’s third of the year, April 13 against the Twins. You can read about his last start here.
Two dominant starts into his 2013 season, Matt Harvey was already capturing the imagination of Mets fans everywhere, and his starts were becoming must-see events for an otherwise unwatchable team. His next chance to shine came in a frigid Minnesota.
Mets fans who were around at the time will fondly remember this as maybe the coldest road trip ever. The Mets went to both Minnesota and Denver to battle sub-freezing temperatures and significant snowfall in both cities. The images of Sandy Alderson, Jay Horowitz, and various Mets employees shoveling the snow off the field in Colorado before a doubleheader still get referenced on SNY broadcasts to this day.
Up in Minnesota, the Mets battled the Twins for a Saturday matinee with gametime temperature measured at a balmy 35 degrees. But the temperature could do nothing to cool off a red-hot Matt Harvey.
Harvey toed the rubber in the frigid temperatures, and looked no worse for wear. He struck out the first hitter he faced and got through the first inning in order. He surrendered a walk in the second inning, but no hits. He got through the third in order, and only allowed a walk in the fourth before getting through the fifth spotlessly as well.
How could Harvey follow the dominance of his first two starts? Well, how about a no-hitter through five? And since he was relying less on the strikeout pitch—having only struck out four Twins up to that point—his pitch count was at a very manageable 62 pitches.
Of course, Harvey wouldn’t pitch to contact for long. He never did. He found the strikeout pitch in the sixth, whiffing both Brian Dozier and (a very young) Eduardo Escobar to start the frame, and then got Aaron Hicks to fly out.
Six hitless innings in the books.
Harvey went out for the seventh and got both of the first two hitters to ground out on just 5 pitches total. This was suddenly looking more and more realistic. Harvey was at 80 pitches with just seven outs to go for a no-hitter.
Justin Morneau stepped to the plate as Harvey’s final test in the seventh. Morneau was no longer the All-Star, 30-homer hitter he was for much of the mid-2000’s, but he was still an above average hitter up there with some pop. If Harvey could get through Morneau, he’d most likely have faced the middle of the Twins’ order for the last time. Only the bottom of what would be a 66-win Twins lineup stood in his way after this. The path to a no-no was right in front of Harvey. He just had to get through Morneau.
Morneau battled to a 2-2 count. On the sixth pitch of the at bat, he got out in front of a slider and pulled it down the right field line. It was hugging the line, and looked like it could’ve gone foul, but it clanked off the foul pole for a home run. No-hitter over. Shut out over. It was the first homer Harvey had allowed in 2013, and it was a heartbreaking one.
But even with that disappointment, the young Harvey didn’t waver. He retired the next hitter to end the inning, and then went back out for the eight as well. He allowed one more hit in the eighth, but got through it without any further trouble. This was the first time Harvey had completed the eighth inning his career. He only struck out six in this game, but it didn’t really matter because, besides Morneau, the Twins couldn’t square anything up.
On offense, the Mets didn’t do a lot, but they did enough to back Harvey by scoring four runs in the fifth inning. It was enough to secure a 4-2 victory in this one, making Harvey 3-0 in three starts with a laughable 0.82 ERA and 25 strikeouts. Harvey’s start to the season was now no longer just eye-popping; it was bordering on historic.
Having flirted with a no-hitter, Harvey was now making headlines around the league. He won NL Player of the Week for his performance against the Twins, and had caught the attention of one particularly interested on-looker.
Morneau got lucky... We need to come up with a nickname for this kid... He's the real deal... Matt "THE REAL DEAL" Harvey !!! @MattHarvey33— Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) April 13, 2013
“The Real Deal” became Harvey’s unofficial moniker for a little while thanks to Doc’s tweet. In fact, it’s still listed as a nickname on his Baseball Reference page. Having gotten the full endorsement from the Good Doctor himself, the Harvey Train was now a full go. A Citi Field showdown against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals loomed as his next test.