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 fifth start of the year, April 24 against the Dodgers. You can read about his last start here.
After electrifying Citi Field in his last start against the Nationals and defeating Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey was now on top of the world. Mets fans had latched on to him, and he was now the talk of baseball in New York. Harvey’s starts were now creating a buzz at Citi Field like we hadn’t seen in the ballpark’s brief history. He had become such a shining light in a dark time that the days of his starts had become known as “Harvey Days’’ among Mets fans. It was commonplace to wish each other Happy Harvey Days on Mets blogs. A little cringe in hindsight, sure, but Harvey was all any Mets fan wanted to talk about.
Next in line for the young phenom was the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was the first time Harvey would ever face LA.
This was the first full season for the Dodgers under the Guggenheim ownership group, which used the 2012-13 offseason to give the team a complete facelift. Big-name, big-money additions like Zack Grienke, Adrián González, Hanley Ramirez, and Carl Crawford, as well as international signings Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig turned the Dodgers into an exciting, winning team almost overnight.
The Dodgers offense, however, was off to a slow start in 2013. They were averaging just a little over three runs per game through their first 19 games. But they got off to a fast start in their first ever look at Harvey.
In the top of the first, back-to-back singles Mark Ellis and future Mets legend Adrián González put runners on the corners, and set it up for Matt Kemp to knock in a run on a groundout. It was the first time in 2013 that Harvey had allowed a run in the first inning. It was a little shocking to see Harvey jumped on that quickly, and the Dodgers probably felt like they had hit the jackpot by spotting themselves a quick run against him.
They should’ve, because Harvey quickly restored order by retiring the next nine Dodgers hitters in a row after that, punching out five of them.
On the other side, the Mets offense couldn’t muster much against Ted Lilly—who was a soft-tossing lefty, after all—until Harvey took matters into his own hands and doubled off the wall in left field leading off the fifth inning. Ruben Tejada, batting leadoff, would then drive him in with a base hit to tie the game at 1-1. Harvey was doing it all.
He went back to the mound in the top of the sixth, now in a brand new ballgame. He got the first two hitters to ground out, but a two-out walk to González earned Kemp another at bat against Harvey, his third look at the 24-year-old ace.
Kemp—a controversial multimedia star in a big city who dated celebrities, a lifestyle Harvey would soon try to mirror—took the first two out of the strike zone to get ahead in the count 2-0. Now in a fastball count, Harvey gave Kemp a heater in the middle of the plate that Kemp served the opposite way down the right field line. Marlon Byrd made a leaping attempt at it in the corner, but it landed in the camera well for a two-run homer.
The initial call on the field was that the ball was in play—the umpires were likely fooled by Byrd’s leap—but instant replay confirmed the ball bounced in and out of the camera well, a home run. It was now 3-1 Dodgers in the sixth.
It was just the second homer Harvey had allowed in the season, and the first time he had allowed more than one run in a game. Looking back, you knew the day would come where Harvey would leave a game with a more pedestrian pitching line, but it was still a little deflating to see a crooked number next to Harvey’s name for the first time in 2013.
Harvey’s night finished after that sixth inning. All in all, he surrendered those three runs on four hits and seven strikeouts. It was still a good performance, but a little disappointing after the standard he had set for himself in his initial four starts.
The Mets got a run back in the bottom half to make it 3-2, but they couldn’t get anything else across against the Dodgers’ bullpen over the next few innings, and would go into the bottom of the ninth trailing by the same score. Mike Baxter led off the ninth with a double and Tejada bunted him over to third, setting it up for the Mets’ two best hitters: Daniel Murphy and David Wright.
Murphy popped out, but Wright wasted no time in his turn at bat, singling home the tying run on the first pitch he saw from Brandon League. The game was tied at three and would go to extras.
Bobby Parnell delivered a scoreless top of the tenth, and the Mets would load the bases in the bottom half for Jordany Valdespin. Only needing a fly ball to win the game, Valdespin provided the fly ball and then some. The ball soared over the right-field fence and into the netting over the Modell’s Club for a walk-off grand slam. You may remember this as the game Valdespin coined the “I’m the man right now” phrase in his post-game interview.
As for Harvey, the Kemp homer put a damper on things, but he still had yet to enter the loss column on the year. His ERA was up to 1.54 through his first five starts, and a date with the Miami Marlins loomed next.