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.
We continue today with his eighth start at home against the Pirates. You can read about his last start here.
Coming off the near-perfecto against the White Sox, fans were buzzing about what Matt Harvey could possibly due for an encore. His next chance to dazzle came at home for a Sunday matinee against the Pirates. This was when Pittsburgh was on the upswing, with young up-and-comers like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole breaking into the majors to surround Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez and form an interesting core that had the potential to finally break the Pirates long, 20+-year playoff drought.
Harvey, the first piece of the Mets’ puzzle back to contention, started this one by picking up right where he left off in his last start by delivering a perfect, 1-2-3 first inning with three groundouts. He’d get the first two hitters out in the second before surrendering a well-struck double, ending this game’s no-hit bid at 1.2 innings. But he still got through that second frame without allowing any runs to score.
After Lucas Duda gave the Mets the lead in the bottom of the second with a solo homer, Harvey gave it right back in the third by allowing a home run to the leadoff hitter Clint Barmes. It was just the third homer Harvey had allowed in his eighth start, and it ended his scoreless innings streak at 12.1 innings.
The road got even bumpier for Harvey as the lineup turned over. Two walks sandwiched by a single loaded the bases with only one out in that third inning. Harvey was missing consistently and giving up more hard contact than he usually did. He was clearly more human on this day, and Gary Cohen remarked that Citi Field was in a “stunned silence” because Mets fans hadn’t seen Harvey struggle like this in some time.
He would only allow one more run to score on a sacrifice fly before escaping the jam, but Harvey had allowed a rare crooked number. Perhaps even stranger, he had yet to strike out a batter through three innings.
The top of the fourth was a little easier, though Harvey did hit a batter with a pitch and was working behind in the count most of the time. He finally recorded a strikeout when he got the opposing pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez, to chase a fastball to end the inning.
Harvey seemed to finally find it in the fifth. He struck out two and worked around a McCutchen single to deliver another scoreless inning, and then followed with a 1-2-3 sixth. He’d wind up completing seven innings on 101 pitches without allowing another run after the two-run third inning. He only struck out four on the day, though, which was his lowest strikeout total for any start so far, while walking two while allowing five hits.
Harvey didn’t have his best stuff in this one, but ace pitchers will still find a way to get the job done without their best stuff, and that’s what Harvey did. He righted the ship after losing his command for a few innings and gave the Mets a chance to win this game.
Unfortunately, they didn’t seize that chance at all. They were still trailing 2-1 when Harvey departed in the seventh. And even though they tied it back up on a Mike Baxter single in the bottom half, they gave it right back up in the eighth on an RBI single by Pedro Alvarez. The Mets wouldn’t score again and would lose, 3-2.
The run in the seventh saved Harvey from his first loss, but the Mets offense couldn’t do enough to get Harvey his fifth win, either. This was now four straight no-decisions for him. Before there was Jacob deGrom’s lack of run support, there was Harvey’s. Even though it was only 10 years ago, this was still a time when people cared far more about pitcher wins than they do now. And the fact that Harvey was merely 4-0 through eight starts despite only giving up more than one run twice in those eight starts a was much-discussed travesty. He could’ve legitimately been 8-0 at this point, well on his way to a 20-win campaign.
Of course, the ineptitude of the team around him didn’t exactly do anything to quell Harvey’s growing star. A few days after this start, on May 14, the cover for the upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated was released, and the cover story feature was about none other than the talk of baseball in 2013, Matt Harvey.
The article, to be written by Tom Verducci, nicknamed Harvey “The Dark Knight of Gotham.”
The nickname was perfect. It reflected the way Harvey carried himself with a Bruce Wayne type debonair and extravagance off the field, and countered that with his intense, bulldog mentality on the mound. Harvey himself seemed to be a fan:
I guess there was a reason why I was batman for probably 6 years in a row as kid for Halloween! Haha very thankful and honored!— Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33) May 14, 2013
This nickname, it had some staying power.