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, start-by-start, from its zenith to its tragic end.
We continue today with his ninth start on the road against the Cubs. You can read about his last start here.
“The Dark Knight” nickname appeared to be catching on. Within weeks, it became the unofficial moniker for Harvey. Before the SI cover was leaked, “The Real Deal” remained Harvey’s only other moniker, coined by Doc Gooden. It was a cute nickname, but it lacked the pizazz to really stick. But The Dark Knight was cool, it was fitting, and it was relevant enough in the early 2010s pop culture to really stick. Fans started showing up in Batman masks, and Harvey would ride the branding that moniker allowed him for the rest of his career.
But on May 17, 2013, Harvey’s main focus going into his start against the Cubs wasn’t about branding or getting his image out there; it was simply about getting back on track after his bumpy start against the Pirates. It wasn’t that he got shelled, but his command in particular got away from him. And not that anyone could have expected Harvey to keep a pace of an ERA under 1 that he had in April, but the consistency was waning a tad. He hadn’t won any of his last four starts and had allowed multiple runs in three of the four.
It was an overcast and brisk weekday afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Mets spotted Harvey a run in the top of the first on a David Wright solo shot, but Harvey ran into trouble in the bottom half of the first. A one-out single by Starlin Castro was followed by a ringing double by Anthony Rizzo, putting runners at second and third.
Alfonso Soriano then grounded a ball up the middle that Ruben Tejada flagged down, but he threw low to first and the ball got away. Two runs scored on the play, the Mets were now suddenly trailing 2-1, and Harvey was once again getting no help from his teammates.
There’s a rare trait that some elite pitchers have that allows them to actually pitch better when they get angry. Harvey was always one of those pitchers. So when he immediately got jumped on in the first inning here, it seemed to light a fire under him the rest of the way.
Harvey got the next two hitters out to escape the inning, including his first strikeout of the afternoon, and that was basically the end of the Cubs offense in this one. Harvey would allow one more single in the third, but he would then retire the next 14 Cubs hitters in a row. He allowed one more single in the eighth inning, and was pulled with one out in the eighth at 106 pitches. He only struck out six on the day—a fairly pedestrian total for Harvey—but did not walk anyone.
That allowed the Mets to actually get back in the game. The Mets bats were mostly stifled by Edwin Jackson, but Daniel Murphy tied it up at 2-2 in the fourth with a solo homer of his own. The game went tied into the seventh with both starters still duking it out when the Mets started an unlikely rally in the top half of the inning. With one out, Rick Ankiel doubled to deep right field—one of the 12 hits he would ever get in a Mets uniform.
Ruben Tejada flied out, bringing Harvey up with two out. Harvey had a good offensive output in his rookie season, collecting six hits and 3 RBIs in 21 PAs, but was just 2-for-19 this season with no RBIs. But on a 1-1 count, Harvey grounded one through the 5-6 hole on the left side for a base hit into left field. Ankiel scored from second, and Harvey had given the Mets the lead. If you want something done right, do it yourself, and Harvey did. His first RBI of the season gave the Mets a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.
Things did get dicey in the eighth, though, after Harvey was pulled. With a runner on second, David DeJesus pulled a single into right field. The runner tried to score from second, but Marlon Byrd uncorked a perfect throw to the plate to gun down the tying run by about 15 feet. The Mets got through the inning, and then Bobby Parnell fired perfect ninth inning to seal the save, and Harvey’s first win in nearly a month.
With the victory, Harvey moved to 5-0 on the season with a 1.55 ERA through nine starts. Amazingly, this was only the fourth best ERA in baseball among starters at this time, as Clayton Kershaw, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin all still had better ERAs, though only Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright had amassed higher fWARs than Harvey’s 2.3 to this point.
Regardless, at 2.3 fWAR through nine starts, Harvey was on a pace to put up 8.2 fWAR through 32 starts, which would’ve been the fifth best pitching season in franchise history at the time, with only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver populating the four spots above Harvey. That’s the kind of company he was in.
Anyway, here’s a fun gif of Harvey carving up Alfonso Soriano during this start, and here’s a look at Chris McShane’s analysis of this start.