A day after a downtrodden people gathered to bear witness to Harveyism and declare that henceforth its tenets shall be their faith, the less-exalted Jeremy Hefner took the hill for New York. The more you know about Hefner the more you root for him, but he’s not Matt Harvey, which isn’t any kind of insult. Like many starters who have come before him and many who will come after him, Hefner can be very effective if he has all his pitches working and can hit his location, but is generally ineffective at all if he doesn’t. In three of his four appearances this year, the latter’s been the case — and this time Hefner was up against Gio Gonzalez, who has a 20-win season on his resume and the Nats’ offense supporting him.
But what could easily been a post-Harvey hangover game turned more interesting than that. Hefner wasn’t great, but neither was Gonzalez — the Mets worked their usual patient at-bats, driving Gonzalez’s pitch count up and up with an assist from Gio himself. They harried him in the bottom of the fourth, putting up five two-out runs, with the most impressive at-bat probably Ruben Tejada seeing 10 pitches (one of which tore Kurt Suzuki’s glove off his hand) in working out a walk as a pinch-hitter.
Alas, with Hefner out early the Mets called on Aaron Laffey, who’s no Matt Harvey and no Jeremy Hefner either. Laffey got the first two, but then walked the hideous Jayson Werth, gave up a double to Bryce Harper and then served up a 1-2 pitch to Adam LaRoche, one of those guys who kills you without attracting his fair share of notice. LaRoche turned it into a three-run homer. Harvey is Harvey and Jon Niese has matured into a generally reliable pitcher, but the back of the Mets’ rotation is a mess, to put it charitably. Dillon Gee deserves more time and patience as he works back from an injury, but otherwise we’re left hoping Shaun Marcum gets here soon, after which the best-case scenario is that he’s Shaun Marcum.
After Laffey did what he did, the game turned into one of those long grinds, with teams poking at each other in search of a weakness. That turned out to be Josh Edgin. Edgin has not looked good so far this year, but he pitched a clean seventh (much-needed for him and for us), after which the Mets grabbed the lead on a Daniel Murphy hit (Murph was safe by an eyelash on an eyelash), a John Buck double and a Harper bobble that prevented Murph from being roadkill at the plate. But as before, the good feeling lasted about six seconds — Harper utterly demolished an Edgin delivery for his second homer of the day, and this one should have counted double: It re-entered the atmosphere above the Shea Bridge, and I’m pretty sure I saw a LaGuardia-bound 747, a communications satellite, a near-Earth asteroid and a dislodged chunk of the Bifrost Bridge plummet down in its wake.
The Mets looked like they had a chance in the ninth against a wild Rafael Soriano, but their lessons in admirable patience seemed to desert them when they were needed most. Justin Turner worked a 3-1 count, fouled back what might have been Ball 4 and wasn’t his pitch even if it weren’t, then lined out. Murph grounded out on a 3-1 pitch. David Wright worked out a walk — and Buck promptly tapped the first pitch to short.
So … yeah. Interesting game turned disappointing. You can lament that our current rotation is Harvey, Niese and a collective shrug, and you wouldn’t be wrong. You can wonder what’s wrong with Edgin, and ask if Sandy Alderson’s thoughts are turning to Pedro Feliciano or Robert Carson. You can wish the Mets had shown just a bit more of that wise restraint in pursuing errant baseballs at the end.
All of that would be true, but there’s such a thing as overthinking stuff. Bryce Harper is a star at 20, and if nothing goes amiss it’s absolutely terrifying to think what he’ll be at 25, and how many years he’ll stay that way. Let’s face it: If Buck had worked the count to 3-2 and blasted a double up the gap to score Wright and make it 7-7, Harper would have hit a third homer off Bobby Parnell or Scott Rice. The Nats version of this recap would be MOTHER OF GOD BRYCE HARPER IS FREAKING AWESOME, and that would be correct and hit all the truly important points.