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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Meeting Matt

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.

11 comments to Meeting Matt

  • Andee

    Wow. That was better than I ever could have expected. He just made Goldschmidt look silly three times. And that’s not an easy lineup or an easy ballpark for a pitcher, either. Not only that, but he didn’t get rattled with runners on base.

    Harvey vs. Lincecum in SF should be vastly entertaining. Of course, having been in both ballparks, I know that compared to Phone Company Park at Barry Bonds Point, Chase Field is as quiet as a library. Something about that dome just seems to absorb noise. And the fans in Phoenix are a lot more laid back, too, and there are about half as many at games as there are in SF. And then there’s that wind off the bay. But I’m sure Dickey will happily fill him in.

  • Dave

    Wow. Yeah, there are going to be roadbumps in future starts, this year and beyond, but those will be much easier to swallow after seeing this. And I love his mechanics, all that lower body strength…Seaver, Kooz, Tug and Ryan all pitched 20 years in the bigs and all attributed it to Rube Walker training them to use their legs. Harvey is not Seaver, but he got off to a nice start and gave the Mets exactly what they needed.

  • mikeL

    wow, a riveting and enjoyable mets game…it had been a while!
    and that stat for the ages:
    first to strike out more than ten and get two hits in major league debut since…1900??
    boatloads of composure for a 23 year old just breaking into the majors.
    maybe parnell could get a few sessions with harvey’s sports psychologist. that and some late movement on his fastball and he might not make so many squirm so often.

  • Steve D

    I was worried about his mechanics…they are a bit deceiving. Even Gary and Keith said he was not dropping down and seemed upright…but in slow motion, he does uses his lower body well…it is a simple motion, everyone agrees. Certainly can’t argue with those results. As with any pitcher, he must be able to adjust after the hitters see him a few times and must stay healthy.

  • Guy Kipp

    While we should allow ourselves to be very impressed by a debut that had to exceed just about everyone’s expecations, let’s just remember: All pitchers get hurt. Eventually, and often early in their careers, virtually every pitcher has an injury he must break through, recover from and get past.

  • kjs

    I can’t tell you in the long run how his pitching will be, but I can tell you this guy has major-league cojones, which we desperately need.

  • Dak442

    I was also surprised at the calls Harvey was getting. A more disciplined team is going to lay off those eye-level fastballs, so he better work on that curve. But overall – yay!

  • Will in Central NJ

    Finally, a night where Met fans’ expectations were met, or even exceeded for a change. Let’s go Mets!

  • Did anyone else hear Ron Darling say Matt Harvey grew up a “huge Yankee fan”?

    This is why, no matter how well he pitches, he will never totally have my heart.

    Because if he succeeds, someday he will leave us for the Enemy. Mark my words.

    So let’s enjoy him while we can…

    • Dennis

      “Did anyone else hear Ron Darling say Matt Harvey grew up a “huge Yankee fan”?

      This is why, no matter how well he pitches, he will never totally have my heart.”

      Big deal. If he pithes like that, who cares who he rooted for? Do you really think that every player on the Mets grew up liking them? I’ve got some news for you…..they play for money, so whoever is signing their checks is who their latest favorite team is.

  • Luz B.

    I agree, Matt Harvey did not need our prayers, but we certainly have to pray for every 9th inning…. I never thought I could say this…..I miss Senor Francisco! Luz B