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 sixth start of the year, April 29 against the Marlins. You can read about his last start here.
The buzz and excitement surrounding Matt Harvey in April 2013 was certainly palpable, but not necessarily measurable. Harvey had made just three starts at home to that point and was not meaningfully contributing to attendance numbers yet. But towards the end of the month, SNY released a ratings report to the press for the month of April. As it turns out, Harvey was not just the biggest SNY draw in years, but the biggest television draw in New York.
Harvey’s starts on SNY were drawing 14% more viewers than the team’s other games on its network, with a 35% spike in the adults age 25-54 demo for those games. What’s more, the average 2.55 local rating for Harvey’s starts outpaced the Yankees’ 2.42 average rating on the YES Network. Harvey was already a bigger deal in New York than the biggest game in town.
It’s not very common for individual baseball players to be that much of a ratings draw, especially only one month into a breakout season. SNY President Steve Raab said they had seen this type of bump in the past for Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana, who were already established stars who came over in big time deals. But a young pitcher who had barely cleared rookie eligibility had never moved ratings like this in the modern RSN era for the Mets.
For his next act, Harvey and the Mets traveled down to Miami to face the Marlins. This was Harvey’s first matchup against Miami in his career. He had missed facing the Fish in 2012 and didn’t pitch when they came to Citi Field earlier in the month, either.
The Marlins were fresh off their latest fire sale and, outside of Giancarlo Stanton, were basically a hollow skeleton of a major league team at this point. They did have an exciting young pitcher in José Fernández that Harvey would go head-to-head against on this day, and this had the possibility of being the first of many matchups between the two young aces that could define a generation in the NL East.
That said, a team that had late-career Placido Polanco batting cleanup and someone named Nick Green playing shortstop presented probably the easiest foe Harvey would face all year. Surely he could dominate this team with ease judging by how he had his way with the rest of the league to this point.
Well, not quite. The Marlins would somehow prove a tougher opponent for Harvey than most other teams were, as would become a theme throughout his Mets career.
That’s not to say Harvey necessarily got hit around in this one, but it was a turbulent ride. He surrendered three hits and a walk across the first two innings, and while he didn’t allow a run, he did need 46 pitches just to record the first six outs. Things didn’t come much easier for him in the third, as back to back singles by Juan Pierre and Donavon Solano started the frame and put runners on the corners with no outs. A ground ball double play helped Harvey through the inning, but Pierre did score on the play, and Harvey’s pitch count was creeping up over 60 already.
That was the only run Harvey would allow in the game, but he still seemed a little off, as the Marlins continued to grind out long and annoying at bats. He surrendered a double and a walk in the fourth around three strikeouts, but needed 27 more pitches to get through that inning. He got through the fifth inning in order, but labored some more in the sixth. He needed six pitches to retire Polanco to start the inning, and then eight-pitch at bats by both Greg Dobbs and Justin Ruggiano ending in a walk and a hit, respectively, ended Harvey’s day at an astronomical 121 pitches.
Robert Carson and Scott Atchinson cleaned up his mess without allowing a run, but this was Harvey’s shortest start so far. It was the first time he had failed to complete the sixth inning in 2013, and his first non-quality start of the year as well.
Harvey’s final line reflected just the one run he allowed, and he struck out seven in his 5.1 innings; a solid start by any measure, but the seven hits and two walks he surrendered were obviously disappointing by the standards he had set for himself. This was now back-to-back starts that were “clunkers” by Harvey’s standard, though this was quite a high baseline to set, of course. His ERA was still at 1.56 after this start.
Harvey left the game with the Mets ahead 2-1, meaning he had a chance for his fifth win if the bullpen could hold it. But the Mets offense could provide nothing else against Fernandez and the Marlins bullpen, and Bobby Parnell blew the save in the ninth and surrendered a run, meaning Harvey’s record would stay at 4-0.
After the blown save, the game wound up going 15 innings. The Mets took the lead in the 15th off former Met Jon Rauch, who Harvey reportedly challenged to a fight when they were teammates in 2012, but Shaun Marcum blew the save in the bottom of the 15th, allowing the Marlins to walk off with a 4-3 win.
This was Harvey’s final start in April, and what a month it was. He was recognized as the NL Pitcher of the Month for his efforts. It was as dominant of a first month as anyone could have hoped for the young hurler. Of course, nobody could have even fathomed the heights he’d reach in his next start against the White Sox.