The Dark Knight Rises in Game 1
Matt Harvey reclaimed his place in Met fans' hearts with his Game 1 win in the NLCS. (Flickr : slgckgc)
Despite winning Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Matt Harvey wasn’t thrilled with his performance. Things worked out a little better on Monday night in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs, picking up another W in the 4-2 victory of Chicago.
Harvey looked like the ace he has vowed to be, pitching into the 8th inning, striking out nine while surrendering only two runs, taking a perfect effort into the 5th. After the innings limit controversy late in the regular season and being intentionally limited to only one start in the NLDS, Harvey made it clear that he wanted to come out strong in Game 1.
“I knew I had to kind of set the tone early, said Harvey. “I know there’s been a lot of speculation or talks going around the past month, but I kind of wanted to kind of stop all that and really go out there and do everything I could for the team and help us, like I said, start off right. Fortunately enough we put up some runs and I was able to do that.”
Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t surprised by the command that Harvey had on all of his pitches early in the game. “Well, I’ve seen it more than this season,” Collins noted. “I’ve seen it a lot.”
It would have been easy for Collins to pull Harvey after 7 innings, having thrown over 90 pitches at that point, but even after Harvey was hit by a line drive Collins stuck with his starter.
“After I said that the tricep was all good, it really wasn't much conversation after that,” said Harvey. “I give him a lot of thanks for trusting me to go back out there.”
“After he got hit with the line drive, the next inning I thought he started out a little shaky,” said Coillins. “But, boy, then he still looked very, very good. He pitched a great game.”
Although Harvey gave up a solo home run in the 8th to Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber that Harvey described as a ball that “hasn’t landed yet,” there wasn’t much else he surrendered all night, stifling what Cubs manager Joe Maddon thought was a solid effort from his team.
“Beautifully,” Maddon described his club’s play. “If Harvey wasn't pitching, it would have looked a lot better. He was outstanding tonight….I thought we were fine, absolutely fine. I just think that he was absolutely on top of his game tonight.”
Just as Harvey described his arm as being “dented” after being struck by the line drive, Harvey’s status as the savior of Gotham has had its dents as well. Not simply because of instances such as the the innings limit discussion or the late arrival to the mandatory workout, but also because of the heightened cult status of the NLDS heroes, Jacob deGrom and Daniel Murphy.
deGrom has been dubbed the team’s ace after his spectacular sophomore season and his two road wins in LA last week. He was cheered so long in pre-game intros that he had to tip his cap twice with a slightly embarrassed smile. Meanwhile Murphy came in after the series of his life, and extended his magical ride with a homer in the 1st inning Monday night and a diving stop at 2nd to clinch the win in the 9th. But the stellar outing from the game 1 starter had the Mets 2nd baseman sending praise Harvey’s way.
“For the offense it kind of takes some of the pressure off a little bit when you see how good he is and how good he was tonight from the first pitch,” said Murphy. “He gave us an opportunity to try to extend the lead because of the zeros he was throwing up.”
Murphy particularly lauded the approach Harvey took against the Cubs lineup.
“It was cooler to see from second base because he kind of started with the changeup on the secondary pitch, and then the second and third times through he's going to the breaking ball,” noted Murphy. “So he did a great job, I think, keeping them off balance.”
In a year that at times seemed up and down for Harvey and also featured possibly overshadowing positives like the All-Star season for deGrom and the emergence of Sunday night’s Game 2 starter Noah Syndergaard, it can be easy to forget just how good a year Harvey has had while coming back from Tommy John surgery. And after proving how valuable he can be in the biggest start of his major league career, he couldn’t help but to recognize the satisfaction of living up to the hopes of the largest Mets crowd in Citi Field history.
“Oh, it was great,” said Harvey. “I think after everything that's happened, I think the biggest thing was really staying focused on what I had to do tonight. Regardless of what's happened, my job was to go out and give us quality innings and keep the damage down and really, like I said, get us starting off right.”
Terry Collins has continuously stood up for his pitcher, no matter what off the field stories have popped up.
“Again, I try not to get too involved in some of that stuff because it's really nothing I can control,” said Collins. “But I talk to this guy every day. I know exactly what he's made of. I know exactly what he's about, and he wants the baseball.”
Collins has said he plans to use Harvey for more than one start in the NLCS, while Sandy Alderson has not been as committal. But one thing is for certain. The Dark Knight rose on Saturday in Queens.