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 tenth start at home against the Reds. You can read about his last start here.
On May 20, the Dark Knight of Gotham story by Tom Verducci was published in that week’s edition of Sports Illustrated. The “Dark Night” nickname had already taken off, but now we got the full story of Harvey’s baseball upbringing, from when his father, Ed, taught him how to throw to his rise as a draft prospect in high school and through his time at college. It gave insight into Harvey’s attitude and his confidence in himself, with the primary example being his refusal to sign with the Angels when they drafted him in in 2007 because he thought he was worth at least $2 million, and the Angels weren’t going to give that to a third-round pick like Harvey.
It mentioned how he hung out with Henrik Lundqvist and drove a black Escalade around New York City. It detailed his desires to be like Justin Verlander, and reach the pinnacle of the sport and become a feared opponent like he had. “I always wanted to be the tough, win-all guy. Any other way is not going to happen,” Harvey said in the piece.
We already knew about Harvey’s personality and his desire to be the best, but these stories just added more context to the sheer competitor Harvey was. He had the perfect personality to be an ace of a New York team. He cherished the spotlight, wanted to be a star, and wanted to anchor the New York Mets going forward.
That wasn’t the only feature written about Harvey that week. On May 22, the day he would later face the Reds, New York Magazine published a feature of their own written by Will Leitch. Leitch opens with the feeling of being in a press box for a Knicks playoff game and the whole press box turning their attention away from the Knicks to watch Matt Harvey pitch against the White Sox.
From the article:
“He represents a break from everything that has been so awful about being a Mets fan for nearly seven years now. In an odd way, he has even finally christened Citi Field.”
Harvey was already a big draw after his first few April starts, but his start against the White Sox had officially made him the biggest attraction in town. He was stealing the spotlight from the Knicks, of all teams. Every magazine wanted to write a feature on him and every television show wanted to talk about him.
Nobody wanted to talk about the rest of the Mets, though, who were in the midst of a brutal month of May. Coming into the game on May 22, they were fresh off dropping the first two games of their series against the Reds, lowering their record to 17-26 on the year. They were 3-9 in their last 12 games, which included a seven-game losing streak.
Knowing his personality, Harvey probably cherished the opportunity to pitch against this Reds team. They featured multiple All-Stars like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce, and coming into the game were the second-highest scoring team in the NL. They were 28-18, which was one of the best records in baseball to that point. This was arguably Harvey’s toughest test yet, and it came with a chance to stop the parade of L’s the Mets had been collecting recently.
It was a cloudy weekday afternoon at Citi Field. The game started inconspicuously enough. Harvey worked around a single in the first inning, and the Mets put up a run for him in the bottom half on a Rick Ankiel RBI double.
Perhaps inspired by actually getting some early run support—an increasindly rare thing for Harvey when surrounded by this team—he struck out the first two hitters he faced in the second. He’d allow a hit and a walk with two outs, but found his way through the inning.
He wasn’t so fortunate in the third, however. A strikeout of Shin-Soo Choo started the inning, but Zack Cozart followed with a double, setting it up for Votto. Harvey got Votto to lineout the first time he faced the future Hall-of-Famer, but he wasn’t as lucky the second time. Votto blasted one the other way over the Great Wall of Flushing for a two-run homer. The Reds took a 2-1 lead, and Harvey had allowed just his fourth homer of the season in his tenth start.
Harvey got through the inning, and bounced back with a spotless fourth, but ran into more trouble in the fifth. Once again, Harvey began the frame with two strikeouts, this time striking out Mat Latos, his opposite number, and Choo again, but ran into more two-out trouble when a double and two walks (one intentional, to Votto) loaded the bases. But Harvey got Bruce to groundout to end the threat.
Overall, Harvey’s stuff was there for this start, but he wasn’t in his dominant form. He was definitely having some problems with a very good offense, which is understandable, but he had successfully limited the damage thus far.
The Mets tied the game back up at 2-2 on a Daniel Murphy sac fly in the fifth inning. Harvey kept the game at that score through six, but Terry Collins sent him back out there for the seventh to face the top of the lineup, despite his pitch count already sitting at 100.
In today’s game, that probably never would’ve happened, as modern strategy would say to use your fresher arms against the top of the lineup. But this was 2013 and this was Collins, who was never in tune with modern bullpen strategy, even a decade ago.
Unsurprisingly, Harvey ran into more trouble in the seventh. One-out singles by Cozart and Votto put two runners on. With Harvey clearly running out of gas and at 109 pitches, Collins left Harvey in to face Phillips for a fourth time.
Phillips worked a full count, and on the sixth pitch, he pulled a 97 MPH fastball down the third base line, past a diving David Wright, to score the run from second, advance Votto to third, and give the Reds the 3-2 lead.
That was the end for Harvey. Collins finally pulled him after that. Scott Rice got Bruce to groundout, which scored Votto from third, giving the Reds a fourth run which was charged to Harvey.
This was the first time all season that Harvey had been charged with four runs. He had allowed three to the Dodgers back in April, but still managed a quality start in that one. It was mostly because he just ran out of gas late, but this was the first time all season Harvey really didn’t get the job done.
A stunned silent Citi Field watched as Scott Rice got out of the inning to keep the score at 4-2. The game was still in reach, but Harvey was at significant risk for his first loss of the 2013 season.
But, believe it or not, the Mets actually helped Harvey out. With a runner on second and two out in the bottom half of the seventh, Daniel Murphy singled home a run to get the Mets a little closer and make it 4-3. That brought up Rick Ankiel, who had a big hit in Harvey’s last start, you may remember. Ankiel lifted a ball deep to left that bounced off the wall and kicked away from the left fielder Xavier Paul. Murphy scored the tying run from first, and Ankiel wound up at third with a game-tying RBI triple.
Harvey was off the hook, and remained undefeated on the season.
Unfortunately, because they were the 2013 Mets, they could not score again or even keep the Reds at bay. In the top of the 9th, with the game still tied at four, Bobby Parnell came on to try to hold the tie.
A double by Choo and another intentional walk to Votto put two on with one out for Phillips, yet again. This time, Phillips chopped one up the first base line. Ike Davis thought the ball was going foul, so he let it go past him. But it didn’t. It stayed true and went over the bag and down the right field line. The go-ahead run scored.
This team was not very good.
Two more runs scored in the inning on a base hit by future Mets hero Todd Frazier, and the Mets lost 7-4. All in all, it was a pretty terrible game. Harvey had his worst start of the season by allowing four runs and nine hits with just six strikeouts in his 6.2 innings pitched. The Mets had dropped another, and were now 10 games under .500 in May.
This team was not very good.
Harvey was still very good, of course, though his ERA had jumped up to 1.93. Still an elite number, but that was the highest it had been all year, and he had now allowed multiple runs in each of his last three starts.
Here’s a look at Chris McShane’s analysis of this start.
He had a chance to bounce back in his next start against none other than the New York Yankees.