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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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He Can be Harvey, Just for One Day

Before Saturday’s game, I noticed a new billboard plastered along the avenue of commerce that serves as Citi Field’s outfield fence. It touted EAST COAST POWER & GAS. Clearly it referred to the home team’s starting pitcher.

Good to see the Mets making some very bold statements.

Offspeed blends notwithstanding, we know Matt Harvey can bring the gas. Nine strikeouts over seven increasingly impressive innings attested to his most important renewable resource and his ability to turn it into an adequately efficiently fuel capable of generating just enough electricity to keep an entire stadium operating at a low hum. Matt’s first two batters walked and homered, staking the Diamondbacks to a distressingly quick 2-0 lead. Matt’s next 26 batters, including the seven who reached base via single or walk, failed to score behind them. At 109 pitches over seven frames, it may not have been classically clean-burning, but it surely proved sustainable.

You can’t talk about Harvey without talking about his pitching, but now that we’ve talked about his pitching, we can talk about his hitting.

Matt Harvey has power. We usually mean he has the power to attract attention, mostly through his pitching, sometimes through whatever magnetism separates very good pitchers from highly marketable commodities. As a product, Harvey tested through the roof in 2013. As a pitcher, Harvey’s admitted to experiencing “more ups and downs than I expected or wanted” in 2015, his first season after Tommy John surgery. Pitchers are entitled to feel their way back. We get antsy, however, when highly marketable commodities show flaws.

On the other hand, we get giddy when we discover they come fully loaded with features we’d only dreamed about.

Did you know Matt Harvey can hit home runs? Well, he can hit a home run, but now that he’s hit one, I’m sure he can hit more. Of course I’m sure. The whole point of a Matt Harvey is to be absolutely certain of what he can do. Other Mets give you an idea they can do something spectacular and you hopefully infer that maybe they can do more. Harvey does something once and you assume he will repeat it, enhance it and draw disproportionate notice for it.

As he should. We need a guy like that, and not just for the thrill having a guy like that. He lets as many as 24 other Mets, regardless of how well (or poorly) they’re doing, fly under radar, which probably doesn’t bother too many of them. The radar is too busy trying track Harvey.

Saturday he hit a ball where the radar couldn’t automatically detect it. He hit it over the outfield fence, the same one that promised EAST COAST POWER & GAS. Not over that sign, precisely, but the effect was the same: powerful.

I was going to say “explosive,” but you don’t want that from a source of power, let alone gas, do you?

I’ve been on hand for several Met pitcher home runs over the years and they usually follow the same trajectory. There’s a swing; there’s a fly ball usually closely parallel to a nearby foul line; the ball sort of hangs in the air for a minute as if it doesn’t know what it’s doing aloft. The ball is all like, “What — where do I go now?” It’s almost embarrassed by the attention. Eventually it has no choice but to quit traveling and land somewhere in the stands. The pitcher who hit it seems equally embarrassed as if he didn’t mean to hit it and now doesn’t mean to trot. (Somebody should check the parking lot where Shea used to stand — John Maine may be still circling the bases from 2007.)

It wasn’t like that with Matt Harvey’s fifth-inning home run. Matt Harvey’s fifth-inning home run was a solid line drive. From my perch high in 512, I knew it was going somewhere. I figured double off the wall if it didn’t caught, which would have sucked. Actually, because it was the pitcher…particularly because it was this pitcher…it would have sucked just a little had it been merely a double. Eric Campbell was on first and quite possibly would have scored the tying run had it been a double, but still. Matt has doubled five times in his career. He’d never homered. Put aside what you know about fractions. A double wouldn’t have been half as good as a home run here.

And then it was gone. Or it seemed to be. David Peralta, who hit the home run that put Harvey behind in the first inning, was determinedly gesticulating. Way up in Row 12, I thought he was insisting it bounced over the advertising-laden wall for a ground-rule double. Then I remembered it’s 2015 and what you can’t keep from going out of the park you can always try to bring back by video replay review.

Now I got it. There’s that orange stripe, then there’s that railing, there’s some kid with a glove. If I were David Peralta, assuming I wasn’t deeply ashamed of myself for having homered off of Matt Harvey earlier, I guess I’d gesticulate determinedly and beg intrusive technology to give my team back those extra two bases. Harvey would be on second, which would be kind of cool, except Campbell would go to third, and the Mets would still be down, 2-1, and Juan Lagares — for whose bobblehead my pal Joe and I were in attendance in the first place — would be up and Patrick Corbin would get out of the inning because, let’s face it, Corbin was mostly impenetrable until the fifth and Lagares’s bobblehead didn’t exactly portray him with a bat in his hands. Lucas Duda had gotten to Corbin to start the inning, but otherwise the Mets were being the Mets: all pitch, very little hit, how about some luck?

You don’t need luck when the cameras capture reality. Harvey’s liner was well above that orange stripe and was going to hit that railing if the kid with that glove hadn’t made a nice (if not Lagarish) catch. It was still a home run hit by the starting pitcher. It was almost a second home run hit by the starting pitcher in my mind, considering my initial confusion. Joe and I high-fived a few extra times to certify that it really and truly counted as four legitimate bases.

Harvey didn’t seem the least bit shy about circling them, by the way.

I mentioned Duda homered, his second in two days. Also, Ruben Tejada hit a home run in the sixth; it carried like the kind Bobby Jones hit that one time in 1999. Bobby Parnell and Jeurys Familia provided solid relief. Tejada and Wilmer Flores continued to look like a steady double play combination. Lagares didn’t hit at all, but his bobblehead was properly fitted with a nifty Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom smilingly accepted our applause when he was presented his All-Star batting practice jersey (appropriate given how Met pitchers obviously make good use of their BP). So yes, there were other Mets who were elements of Saturday’s winning experience — but they all flew under radar.

Who notices anybody else when Matt Harvey is in full flight?

Given Harvey’s recent inability to replicate 2013 on command, I’ll admit to a little worry as the game developed. Matt was down 2-0 and looked (to me) uncomfortable. Dan Warthen had to visit the mound. I half-expected Ray Ramirez to follow. Where Ray Ramirez goes, the Grim Reaper is bound to check in soon enough. None of that happened, and Harvey found his groove, but I wasn’t taking any chances. My own fully reasonable concession to superstition was to delete the phrase “Harvey Day” from my vocabulary, whether spoken or electronic. It seemed a bit dated suddenly, like the NEW TWERK CITY tank top I saw some girl wearing inside the Herald Square station the other day. Besides, every time I psyched myself up for Harvey Day, either he’d get hit surprisingly hard or it would rain incessantly.

Thing is, you can’t let a Harvey start pass you by as if it’s just another day. The home run that put him (and, oh yeah, his team) ahead reminded me attention must be paid. When he returned to pitching in the sixth and seventh, it was Harvey Day as it ever was. If I’d brought a cowl, I would have donned it in salute. After he threw his 109th pitch, the 4-6-3 grounder that got him through the seventh, I leapt to my feet in applause, then stayed on my feet to stretch. When “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” got rolling, I heard myself ad-lib an admittedly cringey lyric without even intending to:

Root, root, root
For MATT HAAAR-VEEE!!!

And, of course, the rest of the home team. You know, the guys who play baseball alongside Matt Harvey. They may not get entire days, but they have their moments, too.

28 comments to He Can be Harvey, Just for One Day

  • SkillSets

    Harvey’s a funny name.

  • LA Jake

    July 11, 2015
    The Dark Knight of Gotham officially becomes Bat Man.

  • Art Pesner

    From section 419 I thought Harvey’s homer was actually going further than it did. The ball was smoked. And the Mets pitching is glorious. One game out of a playoff spot with 74 to play. Could be a fun summer.

    • Eric

      On WPIX, I though Cuddyer’s F7 in the 6th was a HR off the bat. It looked better struck than the HR he hit back-to-back with Duda for Syndergaard’s win. How’d it look in person?

      Tough tour of teams coming out of the all-star break and the team has fallen hard after the all-star break the past few seasons. If they can navigate through July at .500, it would be an accomplishment.

      Of course, they didn’t have pitching like this before. I’m looking forward to Niese pitching another strong game today in place of Matz.

  • Daniel Hall

    I’m sure I woke up quite a few neighbors here when I yelled in excitement for at first Harvey’s, then later Tejada’s home runs, just before midnight here. :-P

  • What is it with Mets pitchers going deep at home? The last 12 home runs hit by a Mets hurler have come at either Shea Stadium or Citi Field. It’s been so long since a pitcher has homered for the Mets on the road (1996) that the no-longer-active pitcher (Paul Wilson) accomplished his Herculean feat in a no-longer-active stadium (The Vet in Philly).

    Harvey just joined sluggers like Mark Clark, Armando Reynoso and Jeremy Hefner as pitchers who have all homered at home since Wilson did it.

  • ljcmets

    I too was looking for Ray Ramirez out of the corner of my eye with a clutch in my throat, but as soon as Warthen departed the mound and Harvey proceeded to strike out Goldschmidt, I said to my husband, “That’s it….they won’t score again.” He has progressed from indifference to “whatever makes you happy” to full-fledged Met fandom, but he’s still a newbie, and he looked at me and asked “How do you know?”

    I didn’t really know, of course, but a half-century of the Mets has made me fairly fine-tuned to karma, and I tried to explain that Harvey had that Seaverian, Goodenesque, Santanaish bearing and look in his eye of a true ace. That look that says, “I’m putting this team on my back and I’m carrying it over the finish line, and you, Diamondbacks and Cubs and Nationals, will not stop me. I will do whatever it takes, even hit a home run, and you will do no more damage today.” I didn’t know, but I KNEW, if that makes any sense.

    I dont care who is the nominal “ace” of this staff at any given time; they are all a joy to watch and I like the individual flavors, from DeGrom’s impish grin to Syndegarrd’s Norse god to Matz’s nice Long Island boy, but in my mind if the Mets are going anywhere this season, they’ll go where Harvey takes them. I think he may have a monster second half.

    Having been around since the late 60’s, I, like many of my cohort, have been thinking a lot about this team’s parallels with the 1973 team, from its beleagured lifelong baseball man prone to malapropisms as manager (substitute Yogi for Terry) the serious injury to its star slugger (Rusty for David) and its breathtaking pitching staff (Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Stone for Harvey, DeGrom, Syndegarrd, Matz) to the absolute refusal of the division favorites to take control of the race (substitute Pirates for Nationals). I had cast Harvey in the Seaver role in my head, and he proved yesterday to me that the shoe fits, but maybe he is also suited to the role of the beloved, dynamic, yet scuffling pitcher who is having at best an up-and-down season and who is the toughest of competitors, capable of pushing his teammates and the fans into pennant fever by turning it on when it matters most. Can Harvey be both our Tom and our Tug? I don’t know, but I want to find out. Ya Gotta Believe.

    • Eric

      I’m too young to have followed the ’73 Mets, but based on stats and some sense of the lore, I’ll take Familia over McGraw. Familia is as much of an ace at closer as the young stud starters. McGraw wasn’t dominant like that.

      The double play to end the 7th was an ace moment.

      Assuming Harvey gets his control back, which is supposed to happen in year 2 coming back from TJ surgery, this season will be a boon by pushing Harvey to work through games where his control flutters or his stuff breaks down like Corbin’s did after the 4th inning.

      • Dave

        1973 closers and 2015 closers are two completely different animals. McGraw was unhittable down the stretch in 73 when it mattered the most and had 25 saves, which in an era in which starting pitchers were expected to go 9 innings, was a lot of saves (the 73 Mets had 47 complete games as a staff, which is approximately 47 more than we’ll see Collins allow to happen this year). And I doubt too many of Tug’s saves were achieved by entering the game at the beginning of the 9th with a 3-run lead. Consider the fact that McGraw actually had 24 at-bats in 73. Familia won’t have that for his entire career unless he’s for some reason converted back to a starter.

        That all said, Familia is great, and a good argument can be made that he’s the team’s first half MVP. But when was the last time Hansel Robles pitched?

        • Eric

          I agree that the different ways the 2 closers are used in different eras affect their stats.

          However, looking at McGraw’s 1973 stats, the contrast with Familia’s 2015 stats that jump out are McGraw’s worse ERA and WHIP (WHIP is about as far as I go with sabermetrics). McGraw pitched more innings than Familia’s pace, but Familia is on pace to pitch in more games.

          Your point that the ’73 starters completed more games explains McGraw’s lower number of saves but it doesn’t take away from the case for Familia.

          McGraw could watch the starter finish more of the 1 or 2 run nailbiters. Familia doesn’t get that luxury. It doesn’t matter how strong the starter looks. If a lead is slim, it’s a near lock Familia is coming in to finish it. The bad offense, plus a staff of aces (and 2 middle-rotation quality starters) with innings limits and pitch counts, plus a manager who over-uses his most reliable relievers, add up to a lot of close wins depending on Familia.

          We don’t know yet that Familia will be money down the stretch like McGraw was in ’73, but Familia was money in the 1st half of this season, and he’ll be needed as much in the 2nd half of the season. The innings limits and pitch counts aren’t going away, and I doubt the offense will be getting much better.

      • Met closers to make ASG:
        Tug, 1972
        Jesse, 1983-84
        Franco, 1990
        Armando, 2003
        Wagner, 2007-08
        K-Rod, 2009

        I’d take the season Familia is having over all of them from Franco forward. Jesse was in his prime, Tug, before the troubles, was as good as it got in the N.L. K-Rod was actually having a darned good season in 2009, pre-Castillo, but Familia’s been almost untouchable.

        Armando was truly the most pitiful pick in Met ASG history. They had just incorporated player voting for backups and no Met made it by ballot of his peers or the fans. Benitez was such a worthy All-Star that the Mets traded him before the break was over.

  • Eric

    It was good to see Familia sharp again after 2 outings where he was effective but less than dominant. The young stud starters are given more publicity, deservedly, but the young stud closer is the MVP. It’s a compliment to Familia that we practically take for granted now that when he comes in with a lead, the rest of the game is a formality.

    I’m not confident about Parnell as the set-up man, though. I felt better about Verrett before he was sent down. I’d like to see Mejia in today’s game to at least get a sense of where his game is before facing the tough teams after the all-star break. Ideally, Mejia can be trusted to close games to spell Familia, too.

    Corbin is coming back from Tommy John surgery and offered an interesting contrast with Harvey. Dominant pitching through 4 innings by Corbin. Then he suddenly lost 3 MPH off his fastball and was tagged by Duda, Harvey, and Tejada. Corbin had his TJ surgery last March, like Wheeler had his this March, so significantly less recovery time than Harvey.

    In contrast to Corbin, Harvey’s stuff has stayed up, but Harvey’s control has been inconsistent. Hard to tell whether Corbin lost his control along with his stuff in the 5th inning.

    As much as I liked Duda’s HR in the 5th, I liked his BB in the 6th better because he took 4 pitches of the same kind he’s been flailing at during his slump. That was a promising sign Duda’s coming out of it and he didn’t just luck into a HR because Corbin lost it.

    With the Mets closing to within 1 game of a WC berth, though still 2 games behind the Cubs in the lost column, and 2 (3) games behind the Nationals, I’m curious how Collins and his staff will balance the innings limits versus the need to pitch their best starters every night to keep up in the standings.

  • sturock

    And now three home runs today (bottom of 4th inning). What is going on? Whatever it is, I like it.

  • LA Jake

    Nieuwenhuis hits 3 HRs.
    Not a typo.
    Nieuwenhuis hits 3 HRs.

    Forget gloom and doom. This team is one of the most bizarre, frustrating, entertaining teams in Mets history. Every day brings a new twist and we have no clue whether it will be good or bad, but it won’t be boring.

    LET’S GO METS!

    • Daniel Hall

      “Nieuwenhuis hits 3 HRs” – so you saw it, too?

      Then maybe I still haven’t snapped for good.

      • Jacobs27

        Kirk’s historic performance has inspired me to finally learn how to spell his name! You know, for future Mets trivia.

        What a crazy, contradictory season for him and for this whole team.

    • Eric

      Whatever Flores was doing with Nieuwenhuis’s scalp either didn’t work or it worked for 3 HRs.

    • Dennis

      That’s the spirit Jake! They’re on a nice and somewhat unexpected (especially with those 6 games against SF & LA) run to end the first half. And everyone’s favorite whipping boy Niese has been on a nice run himself. LET’S GO METS indeed!

  • Jacobs27

    Hi Greg, I was just a little over from you in 515. What a game. And I think those sections are my favorite vantage point in Citi Field. What do you think?

    • I think I’d rather sit 512-518, give or take a section, than the outfield on Field Level. Great view (badly designed sight lines notwithstanding) up there.

  • LA Jake

    Three @STL, three @WAS and then four vs LAD. That’s a nasty stretch coming out of the break. If they can at least tread water at 4-6 or better, the 2nd half will be a lot of fun.

    • Eric

      Nationals have a tough series coming out of the all-star break, too: Dodgers.

      Then deGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard are set up to start against the Nationals.

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