While not having his “A” game, Matt Harvey delivered an “A” effort on Monday
Monday’s game three was a highly anticipated affair at Citi Field, for it would be Matt Harvey’s first opportunity to shine under the spotlight of playoff baseball in front of an electric crowd with the chance of taking a pivotal third game in the Mets best-of-five National League Division Series against the Dodgers.
It’s how Terry Collins and the Mets drew it up, too.
There was of course the added spice of how the Mets might retaliate to Chase Utley’s illegal slide in game two, and whether or not Harvey would execute any kind of retaliation, be it against Utley or anyone else in the Dodgers lineup.
But manager Terry Collins instructed Harvey and the rest of the team to save any physical retaliation for another time long before the first pitch of game three was ever thrown.
“This is too big a game. We need to not worry about retaliating. We need to worry about winning,” Collins said before Monday’s game.
The Mets obliged, and retaliated in another way, by beating up on the Dodgers to the tune of 13 runs.
But it didn’t come as easy as it might sound. For the Mets once trailed 3-0 early in game three, planting doubt in the minds of the crowd of over 44,000 at Citi Field the Mets would be able to comeback.
This was all because Harvey did not have his A-Game going on Monday. He allowed three consecutive hits to open the second inning, after while Yasmani Grandal drove in two with a single to right field followed by a throwing error from Curtis Granderson to allow one more run to cross.
“It was definitely a battle,” Harvey explained after the game. “Obviously, it wasn’t ideal giving up runs like that that early in the game, or any runs at all. But the offense came up big and really picked me up when I needed help.”
Harvey lacked his good fastball on Monday. It’s not that the velocity wasn’t there – he averaged over 96 mph with his fastball, according to Pitch F/X data. It just lacked that life, electricity and late movement which makes him scintillating more often than not.
In fact, he only induced five swings-and-misses on his fastball the entire night.
But it wasn’t just his fastball. He lacked command of his change-up and breaking pitches, constantly dealing with hitters counts and traffic on the bases. All of this resulted in a lot of pitches early, and a lot of pitches thrown under duress as he averaged 19 pitches-per-inning and needed 28 of his 95 pitches to get out of a difficult third inning jam.
But it’s these kinds of starts which bring out the best in pitchers, and Harvey is no exception to that, as great as he is. He just didn’t have it at all, but he found a way to survive all of the in-game adversity he both faced and created with a lot of gutsy pitches to get some big outs.
He got a big out thanks to some fantastic defense from David Wright to limit the damage to three runs in the second,
“He didn’t have his best stuff today,” Travis d’Arnaud explained. “But he showed what kind of heart he had, fighting right there and helping us out and going those five innings and putting up zeros for us.”
Collins believes d’Arnaud was a key to Harvey being able to get through his five innings despite not having his good stuff.
“Oour guys like pitching to him. He’s a very, very good receiver,” Collins said after the game. “He ranks in the Top 5 in all of baseball for getting strikes called, and pitchers love that. He sits down, if you watch him between innings they have a game plan, which I think is one of the biggest things you can do is, how am I going to get the first hitter out the next inning? And they have a plan before they go out there and he’s done a good job.”
Harvey credited the fans for their intensity, and felt they most certainly aided the win.
“From as soon as we all stepped on the field, they were electric,” he explained. They definitely were the tenth man for us. I know the offense definitely fed off of their emotions. They were awesome from pitch one.”
In the end, it was a bad day for Harvey stuff wise. It happens. It has happened before and it will happen again. There’s no rhyme, reason or excuse anyone can offer.
Every pitcher has to deal with flat games. Harvey is no exception to that rule.
But on Monday, when it mattered most, he used guile and grit to deliver on his promise, even if it was for only five innings.