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 17th start at home against the Nationals. You can read about his last start here.
With his run of dominance in June, Matt Harvey was now the leading front-runner to start the All-Star game at his home ballpark. The other main contender was Clayton Kershaw, who was having another phenomenal season arguably even better than Harvey’s, but Harvey was the hometown, fan service option, which is always gives you an edge for the All-Star game.
It also helped that Harvey was a legitimately big star at this point, too. On June 25th, it was announced that the 24-year-old would be appearing in ESPN’s The Body Issue coming out in July. Harvey would appear mostly nude in the photoshoot for the magazine. ESPN targeted some of the biggest athletes in sports for this magazine, so that Harvey was included was a testament to how big he was becoming.
It would be the second ESPN magazine to feature Harvey in the course of a few months, after his “Dark Knight of Gotham” feature back in May.
The rising superstar carried a 2.05 ERA into his next start against the Nationals on a drizzly Friday night at Citi Field. This was the first time Harvey would face the Nationals since the famous “Harvey’s better” game in April. Now the weather was warmer, the Mets were firmly out of the playoff race, and the Nats were trying to stick around in the wild card race. Would Washington’s lineup be able to fare better against Harvey now facing him for a second time?
In short, no.
Harvey was once again at the top of his game from the start. He was pumping 97-98 MPH in the first inning and struck out the first two hitters he faced on wicked sliders. He struck out two more in a perfect second inning as well.
Harvey was one of those pitchers where, if he had his stuff early on in the game and got through the first few innings without allowing a hit, you were on no-hitter watch from a very early stage of the game. It wasn’t totally unreasonable to be either, since he had already flirted with a no-no three times in this season already.
Harvey had another perfect third inning, and followed suit with another perfect fourth inning. Meanwhile, the Mets had gotten Harvey a run in the bottom half of the fourth to go up 1-0.
With rain starting to fall at Citi Field, Harvey started the fifth inning by getting Adam LaRoche to fly out and striking Jayson Werth out. It was getting interesting now; one more out and Harvey would be through five perfect innings.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be on this night. The next hitter, Ian Desmond, somewhat shockingly laced an 0-1 curveball into the left field seats for a solo homer, ending Harvey’s perfect game bid, as well as his shutout. It was the first homer he had allowed in over a month.
The Mets answered back in the bottom half, though, by putting two runs on the board on a Marlon Byrd single and a Josh Satin double to go up 3-1. Harvey now had a legitimate chance to win his third straight start if he could hold the lead.
And, unsurprisingly, he did. Harvey worked around a two-out triple by Denard Span to deliver a shutdown inning, ending the frame by striking out Anthony Rendon on a wicked 90 MPH slider bearing down and away. It was his ninth punch-out of the game.
In the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single on Harvey’s 90th pitch. It was just the second hit of the game for the Nats, and it was their first actual baserunner of the game.
Harvey would pitch out of the stretch for the first time all night, but it didn’t affect him. Harvey blew the next two hitters away on fastballs at 95 MPH and 97 MPH, respectively, and then got Desmond to swing at a 3-0 pitch and pop out to first to end the inning on his 109th pitch of the night.
Just another absolutely phenomenal start for the Mets’ ace. He struck out 11 with zero walks and allowed just the two hits. The Nationals did a good job to work some counts and make him throw a lot of pitches, but Harvey was as infallible as ever. This start lowered his ERA to an even 2.00.
The Mets added a fourth run in the bottom of the seventh to go up 4-1, and left the bullpen a three-run lead to protect over the last six outs to give Harvey his eighth victory.
They couldn’t do it. David Aardsma came in and recorded two outs but allowed a hit, Josh Edgin replaced him and allowed a hit, Brandon Lyon came in for him and surrendered a walk and a bases-clearing three-run double to Ryan Zimmerman to tie the game. Scott Rice had to come in relief of him to end the inning.
Four pitchers later, the game was tied, Harvey’s chance for a win was gone, and the team had let him down again. Bobby Parnell would surrender two more runs in the top of the ninth, and the Mets would lose by a score of 6-4. Another tremendous outing by Harvey was wasted by the awful team around him.
Regardless, Harvey kept rolling. This season was now reaching a large enough sample size where it could be compared to the greatest pitching seasons in franchise history. Harvey’s ERA of 2.00 at this point, if he finished with that, would be the third-best single season ERA in franchise history, behind only 1985 Doc Gooden (1.53) and 1971 Tom Seaver (1.76). Harvey was also now at 4.6 fWAR through 17 starts, which put him on a pace for 8.6 fWAR across 32 starts. That also would’ve been the third-best pitching season in franchise history, behind those two seasons by Doc and Seaver as well.
The company he was joining was clear. This had a legitimate chance to be a legendary season in franchise history.