As it turned out, Matt Harvey didn’t need our prayers.
He was superb, fanning a Seaveresque 11 over 5 1/3 innings, surrendering no runs and even hitting for half of the cycle. Then — and this was perhaps even more surprising — the bullpen didn’t blow it. Fireplug reliever Josh Edgin, a fellow 2010 first-round pick, looked very impressive in 1 2/3 innings, Jon Rauch faltered but was picked up by slider-slinging Tim Byrdak, and then Bobby Parnell frightened the bejeezus out of everybody by needing 31 pitches to tiptoe through the ninth, but eventually came out unscathed, freezing Jason Kubel on a fastball to preserve Harvey’s first win.
But back to Harvey.
As I wrote about Stephen Strasburg, there’s just something about a power pitcher. Harvey looks a bit like Tom Terrific, with his butt and legs the engines that drive his fastball, the foundation upon which everything else is built. Harvey gets swinging strikes with that hard fastball that runs a bit — contrast that with, say, Parnell, who throws hard but sees his fastballs turned around all too often. He’s got a diving slider, what looks like a decent curve and a change-up he’s still shaping. A pretty good arsenal, to be sure, but it all works because he can rear back, fire and not get cooked.
Before we anoint Harvey as the Metsiah, though, a couple of caveats.
First of all, he’s young — just 23. He’ll have bad starts, probably a run of them. But we all know this, right?
Second, it looked like all those secondary pitches were very sharp tonight — sharper than we’d heard they were at Buffalo. That’s not always going to be true — it isn’t for the likes of Johan Santana, so it’s certainly not going to be true for a rookie still refining those pitches.
Third, I thought Harvey got some high strikes early — calls I wouldn’t necessarily have expected a rookie to get — and that helped him. It made the Diamondbacks conscious of the high fastball, and took them out of their swing planes, and made it easier for Harvey to change their eye level, and to do everything else. Later in the game, as Harvey tired, his pitches were elevated — and without those early high strikes, I wonder how Harvey would have fared.
But enough caveats. I was glad just to see Harvey up here, as a down payment on the future of the Mets, and I was willing to accept that he’d struggle, and try to be patient. But he didn’t struggle — he was wonderful. He fanned a big-league hitter 11 times and then strode around calmly behind the mound thinking about how to attack the next one in line, and he wasn’t the other team’s fireballer out there; he was ours. At least for a day, that bright Metsian future we keep talking about and hearing about felt more like a when than an if. And boy, did we all need that.