The Mets are playing their most pivotal game in years, and Matt Harvey will star in the show
It couldn’t have been scripted any better.
On Monday night, the Mets will be playing their most pivotal game in nearly a decade when game three of their National League Division Series against the Dodgers begins at Citi Field.
They’ll be playing less than 48 hours after one of the most controversial plays in postseason history took place at the expense of a player’s season and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series.
They’ll also have Matt Harvey on the mound in this pivotal and now highly anticipated game where both theatre, suspense and drama might await, specifically in how the club responds to a punch to the gut like the one they experienced on Saturday night.
Just as it was scripted.
“Right now, we need Matt Harvey to step up and pitch the kind of game we know he’s capable of pitching,” manager Terry Collins said on Sunday, “When we made this decision to pitch him [in game three], which we did a long time ago, we felt this was the pivotal game of this series, and it’s turned out to be that.
“We’re at our park. We need him to step up and pitch a good ballgame, and that’s all I hope he does,” the manager concluded.
The question for Harvey and the Mets won’t be if the Mets choose to retaliate against the Dodgers. It’s pretty clear Harvey and the Mets have something up their sleeves for Monday’s game.
“As far as sticking up for your teammates,” Harvey explained on Sunday. “I think being out there and doing what’s right is exactly what I’m going to do.”
It’s a matter of when the Mets will take action, how they will take action, and what the price is they’re willing to pay for their retaliation.
But Harvey’s excited to have the opportunity to deliver such a pivotal win for this franchise.
“It’s exciting,” the right-hander said. “Obviously finding out I was going to pitch Game three, you know it’s either going to be 2-0, 1-1 or we’re going to be down two games and need a win. So regardless of how things shaped up, I think we’re all excited to be back at home.”
Home hasn’t exactly been so sweet for the Mets lately. They’re just 15-16 at Citi Field since July 25, scoring only 118 runs in those 31 games.
They’ve lost 15 of their last 21 home games since mid-August.
But that was the regular season. Now the show begins.
In a best-of-five postseason series tied at one game apiece, the winner of Game Three has gone on to win the series on 34 of 45 occasions (75.6%).
“It’s a playoff baseball game,” Harvey said. “My job is to go out and put up zeros and go as long as I can. Regardless of what’s happened, what’s happened yesterday, in the past, all that’s been taken care of internally. Pitching a good game, pitching my game is all that’s on my mind. And I think that’s all that’s on our team’s mind.”
The last time the Mets hosted a playoff game, it ended in a manner which went on to define the next near-decade of Mets baseball: in stunning fashion when they lost game seven of the 2006 National League Championship Series against the Cardinals.
“We gotta do our talking by going out there and doing our best to beat them,” Harvey said.
As for Harvey, he’s been surrounded by a lot of controversy in 2015, much of it self induced. Between his activity in social media to the public showcase between he and his agent regarding supposed innings caps, Harvey has not exactly been shining as the Dark Knight of Gotham.
But on Monday night, he will have an opportunity to erase those hard times and endear himself again with a fanbase which stood behind him as he helped dig the Mets out of the dark hole they had been in for eight years before he needed Tommy John Surgery 24 months ago.
“That’s what his job is and that’s what he needs to do,” Collins said. “The one thing we all know about our society – people have short memories when you’re out there having success. You see it everywhere, especially in sports. It’s one of the great things in sports: You can make a mistake and then go out and perform, and people forget all about the mistake. I think that’s why it will be good to have him out there.”
The Mets have managed Harvey’s case well, regardless of what the widespread opinion is about his situation. He went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 29 starts over 189 innings, the latter two marks all well within the ballpark the team had set for him at the beginning of the year.
And he was scintillating in his last three starts of the year, allowing only two earned runs in 17 2/3 innings, and delivered the Mets their first division title since 2006 in one of those three starts.
They afforded Harvey breaks and managed rest all throughout the season. In fact, they tried to rest him even more by implementing a six-man rotation in late April and in early June, only to have to hear from the pitcher himself about how much he disagreed with the process.
And now he’s primed and ready – with no limitations – to do what he’s wanted to do since he was sitting at his locker in the clubhouse at Tradition Field in spring training, to put the club on his shoulders and carry the Mets into and through the playoffs in 2015.
He gets that opportunity in the biggest game of the year, and his life on Monday.