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.
On July 26, 2012, a young pitcher named Matt Harvey made his major league debut against the Diamondbacks in Arizona, and wowed the baseball world by striking out 11 over 5.1 shutout innings.
Nearly a year later, on July 3rd, Harvey would face the Diamondbacks once more, now a certified star in baseball and the probable starter for the All-Star Game. For the first time in his career, Harvey would pitch in front of a sellout crowd at Citi Field thanks to post-game fireworks.
Before Harvey took the mound that night, though, he was already making news earlier in the day. As mentioned previously in this series, Harvey had taken a photoshoot for the ESPN: The Magazine’s Body Issue coming out later in July.
Well, earlier in the day, ESPN released a little teaser image of Harvey at the photoshoot, which sent the internet ablaze.
It’s easy to forget just how cool Harvey was and just how natural this all came to him, but he really knew what he was doing.
Anyway, when it came for Harvey to strut his stuff on the mound again, he was delayed for nearly 2 hours by rain before first pitch. Finally, at 9:01 PM, the Mets took the field and they started playing baseball.
It could be because of the long delay, or it could be because this was the largest Citi Field crowd he had ever pitched in front of to that point (41,257), but Harvey was a little wild in the first inning. A hanging breaking ball was punched through the 5.5 hole by Aaron Hill for a single, and then current Mets bench coach Eric Chavez laced a single into left-center on a middle-middle fastball to set up first and third with only one out.
Harvey then walked the next hitter, but got Martin Prado to bounce into a double play to get himself out of the bases loaded jam unscathed.
The command issues wouldn’t last long, though, because Harvey clearly found it in the second inning when he struck out the side. He then followed that by striking out two more in a hitless third, and worked around a leadoff single to deliver a scoreless fourth as well.
In the bottom half of the fourth, the Mets finally gave him some runs to work with. Two solo shots by David Wright and Josh Satin put the Mets out to a 2-0 lead.
Harvey came back out in the fifth and delivered a shutdown inning. He was dealing with a little more traffic than he had in his previous few starts, but still looked to be on top of his game. He had struck out seven over five shutout innings and looked as unstoppable as he’d looked all season.
Well, that was until the sixth inning. Harvey started off the frame by getting a groundout, but a walk and a seeing-eye hit by Prado put two on with one out against Harvey, who was now suddenly in another jam. He would bounce back and strike out Jason Kubel, though, to bring up Noted Met Killer Cody Ross. All Harvey had to do was retire Ross to escape the jam.
But Ross floated a 1-0 slider down the left field line, and it sailed into the first row of seats in the left field corner for a three-run homer.
Ross did it to the Mets again, and turned the game around. It was the first three-run homer Harvey had allowed all season. With one swing, Ross spoiled Harvey’s great start, and silenced a stunned Citi Field crowd.
Harvey then allowed a single to Cliff Pennington, but struck out the opposing pitcher, his 9th K of the night, to finally end the inning.
The Mets unable to score in the bottom of the sixth inning to get Harvey off the hook. However, he wasn’t done. Even though he recorded the last out of the 6th inning on his 100th pitch after clearly laboring and losing his command on a humid July night, Terry Collins inexplicably sent Harvey back out there to start the seventh.
And, unsurprisingly, Harvey still didn’t have it again in the seventh. His fastballs were 94-96 MPH after sitting 97-98 all night. He walked the first batter he faced, and, despite having two relievers up in the bullpen, Collins still left him in. On his 108th pitch of the night, Harvey allowed a bloop single to Hill to set up two on with nobody out.
Collins left his young starter out there some more, just to see what would happen I guess. On his 110th pitch of the night, Harvey served up an opposite field double to Chavez that scored another run for Arizona. It was 4-2 Diamondbacks, and only now did Collins emerge from the dugout to remove his tiring starter.
Scott Rice came in and immediately allowed a sac fly to Miguel Montero to score the Diamondbacks fifth run charged to Harvey. This was now the most runs Harvey had allowed in a start all year, and it tied his career high for the most runs he had ever allowed. 41,000 people sat silently as their unflappable ace had a very human start for the first time in a while, though it wasn’t entirely his fault.
The Mets would score one more run on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the eighth, but they couldn’t close the gap any further. The Mets lost 5-3, and Harvey was charged with his second loss of the season.
One thing I have noticed when going through these starts are the shocking pitch counts Harvey regularly racked up. This was his 17th start, and the 11th in which he had tossed over 105 pitches. It would be one thing if Harvey was cruising through these starts and just amassing high pitch counts because he was going deep into games, but very often in these games, Harvey is left in for several batters after he was clearly losing it and pushing through high-stress pitches 105 or even 110+ pitches deep into his starts.
This was obviously more commonplace in 2013 than it is now, but it’s worth wondering how things might’ve gone differently over the rest of Harvey’s career if Collins wasn’t so cavalier with his young ace’s workload in his first full major league season.
Harvey’s ERA spiked to 2.27 after this start, which was obviously still a great number, but Harvey’s chances of finishing the season with an ERA under two were now in peril.