In the midst of a season-crushing month of July, Mets fans were losing hope. Sure, they were heading into a rebuilding season and expectations were low to begin with, but monster first halves from David Wright and R.A. Dickey propelled the Mets into an unforeseen race.
Then July happened, where the Mets had two 6-game losing streaks and went 7-18.
Through all the despair, the Mets brought up wunderkind Matt Harvey to try and boost their rotation. And he dazzled with an 11-strikeout debut, the most in Mets history, and followed it with another solid outing of 7 strikeouts, giving him the most strikeouts of any Mets pitcher through their first two starts with 18.
Fantasy owners who have picked up Harvey were expecting the world on Sunday – going up against the Padres at Petco, couldn’t be a more ideal location for a young gun to build upon his rookie season and his confidence.
So I decided to watch Harvey’s outing on Sunday to see how he looked:
First Inning: Harvey’s first pitch is a 94-MPH fastball in the zone, 0-1 on Alexi Amarista. Harvey’s got some power stuff, but after flashing 97 to 98 in his debut, he was usually in the 95-96 MPH range his last outing. He again goes fastball that gets a swing-and-miss, then gears up some high heat that Amarista doesn’t offer at, 1-2. Harvey goes with a slider at 89-MPH and gets Amarista to ground out weakly to second. Next up is Evereth Cabrera who takes a fastball for strike one, then Harvey throws a nasty change-up at 85-MPH to get a swing-and-miss for his second straight 0-2 count. The next pitch is a two-seam fastball in virtually the same place that hangs up and tails back across the plate a bit, which Cabrera laces into right field and is able to stretch into a double. Harvey should have challenged with a different pitch there – his two-seamer doesn’t have the power his four-seamer does. The first pitch to Chase Headley is a 93-MPH fastball fouled off, then he goes with an 83-MPH tight curveball that stays inside, 1-1. Harvey goes back to the two-seamer inside at 86-MPH which Headley drives to right field; it barely sits on top of the scoreboard, but doesn’t go into the seats, for a called 2-run homer. Even though it’s Petco, Headley didn’t exactly demolish the ball as it was a home run by about three inches. That pitch was virtually the same pitch that Cabrera hit for a double that hung a tad and tailed back across the plate to a lefty. Not a good pitch on both occasions; I don’t know why he threw it a second time. Harvey comes right back into the zone and is quickly ahead of Carlos Quentin 0-2, then goes with a nasty slider at 89-MPH that gets Quentin to swing and miss for a three-pitch strikeout. Great pitch there with a great late break at a high speed. The first pitch to Yonder Alonso is fouled off, then he’s way too far inside, 1-1. Harvey loses a curveball that bounces at about 57 feet, but gets Alonso to fly out to left on a 95-MPH four-seamer on the inner edge. That was his best fastball thus far to get him out of the inning.
Second Inning: Harvey starts the second with a get-me-over fastball at 91-MPH at the knees that is hit to the fence by Will Venable for a leadoff triple. The location was good on that pitch, but Harvey took a lot off it to get it in the zone. Harvey falls behind Cameron Maybin 1-0, then gets him to pop out to first, one down. Harvey starts John Baker with a two-seamer on the inside corner that doesn’t quite tail back into the zone, then a swing and miss on a big heater, 1-1. Harvey misses low with the fastball, then hangs a curveball that stays way too high, 3-1. Harvey goes back with the heater on the inside corner and is able to jam Baker to fly out to shallow left, keeping the runner on third, two down. Next up is the pitcher Jason Marquis, who swings over a great curveball, 0-1. Harvey again goes with the curve but hangs it high, 1-1. Harvey then paints the outside corner and gets Marquis to swing and miss on a perfect 96-MPH fastball, then another swing and miss on a high 94-MPH heater to get out of the leadoff-triple jam.
Third Inning: Harvey goes with a first-pitch curveball and Amarista flies out to center, one down. The usually patient Padres are swinging very aggressively early and often on Harvey so far today. The first pitch to Cabrera is in the dirt, then the second is bunted right back to the pitcher, and it’s two quick outs. Harvey pounds the zone with a 95-MPH fastball for strike one on Headley, then doesn’t get the call on consecutive pitches barely missing the zone, 2-1. Harvey goes with the change-up on the outer-lower half to get a swing-and-miss, then bounces a slider to make the count full. Harvey rears back with a 97-MPH fastball, but it tails way out of the zone for his first walk. Harvey tried to overthrow that one a bit and it missed badly. After a check at first, Harvey’s first pitch to Quentin is a slider that goes way outside, and past Rob Johnson. That wasn’t close and could’ve been a wild pitch, but ruled a passed ball. The next one is a curveball that again bounces at 57 or 58 feet, and it’s 2-0 with neither coming remotely close. Quentin fouls one off, then Harvey is low with the heater, 3-1. Harvey then goes on the outside edge with a 95-MPH fastball, but Quentin is able to handle it and doubles to the right center field gap, 3-0 Padres. After a brief meeting on the mound, Harvey starts Alonso with a 95-MPH fastball that looked like a strike on the inner edge, but it’s called a ball. Harvey hits virtually the same spot, and it’s 2-0. Harvey gets the call on the outside corner with the fastball, then a swing and miss on a nice change-up, 2-2. Harvey then goes with a 96-MPH fastball right over the heart of the plate that Alonso tees off on and homers to dead center. That one certainly wasn’t cheap as Harvey missed his spot on the outer edge and ran it right down the middle. You can’t do that in the bigs, even with a high-90s heater, 5-0 Padres. Harvey gets Venable to foul one off, then misses twice, 2-1. He then gets a swing-and-miss on a slider inside, 2-2, and after one is fouled off, Harvey paints that outside corner, this time at 98-MPH, to strike out Venable and finally escape the inning where he was one pitch away from three-up, three-down.
Fourth Inning: Harvey starts the fourth with a slightly hanging slider that stays high to Maybin, then the following fastball is ripped to left and Maybin is into second with a leadoff double. Six hits given up by Harvey, and each one has been for extra bases. Harvey falls behind 1-0 to Baker and again is low, 2-0. Harvey gets a good 95-MPH fastball on the outer edge in the zone, but Baker is able to dig it out and hit it through the gap for a single. That was some good hitting right there. Maybin holds at third, and it’s runners at first and third with no outs. The first pitch to Marquis is squared and bunted, but it’s too hard right at Harvey and the suicide squeeze is thwarted with Maybin thrown out at home. Nice fielding there from Harvey to record the first out. Harvey gets ahead of Amarista 0-1, then paints the outside corner at 95-MPH to get a swing-and-miss, and then again blows him away with a fastball at the letters, two down. Harvey misses outside to Cabrera, but then throws a great change-up over the plate that Cabrera misses badly, 1-1. Harvey pumps a huge 97-MPH at the letters for a swing-and-miss, then misses very high, 2-2. Harvey goes back to the change-up and racks up his 5th K on the day swinging, and is out of the inning.
Fifth Inning: The first pitch of the fifth is a fastball low to Headley, then a change that Headley grounds sharply to Ike Davis, who grabs it on the dive and tosses to Harvey covering for out number one. Great defense there. After a ball outside, Harvey gets Quentin to ground out on a slow roller to third, two down quickly. Let’s see if Harvey can finally work a clean inning. Alonso fouls the first one back, then he rips a high change-up foul, 0-2. Harvey misses high with a fastball, that one clocking at 99-MPH. Harvey misses with two more, and the payoff pitch is fouled back. That one was at 98-MPH, but Alonso just missed it. Another is fouled off, then Harvey goes with a curveball that hangs and Alonso is able to track it and hits another double. That one just didn’t have any life on it. The first pitch to Venable is hit sharply to center, but Valdespin is able to find it and Harvey gets out of the fifth. That would end up being his final batter, ending a rough outing for the rookie.
Final Line: 5 Innings 82 Pitches (50 Strikes)
8 Hits 5 Runs 1 Walk 5 Ks
Final Analysis: Not the performance fantasy owners or Mets fans were hoping for, as Padres hitters were able to tee off on several of Harvey’s pitches and capitalized on each and every one of his mistakes. He almost avoided the big third inning, being only one strike away from a three-up, three-down frame, but the two-out walk led to big damage.
Harvey’s stuff still looks very good. A fastball averaging about 95-MPH that hit 99 on one occasion is still blowing hitters away. It was good to see it hit those upper-90s like he did in his debut as he wasn’t blowing the radar gun away in his last start. His change-up is also a consistent plus-pitch getting a lot of swings and misses, and while his slider and curveball can both be very good, he still hangs a lot of them and loses too many in the dirt. Harvey is still finding those pitches, and as he hopes to get the command of those down, we can expect outings like this here and there.
I don’t know why Harvey is using that 2-seam fastball, as it got him into all that early trouble in the first inning and is easily his worst pitch. While Headley’s homer wasn’t exactly crushed and barely left the park, it is Petco and that would have been in the 10th row in Fenway or New Yankee Stadium. Alonso’s homer was absolutely murdered, as Harvey saw what happens when you miss right down the middle in the Majors, even if you hit 96-MPH on the gun.
I still think Harvey is worth owning, even in shallower 10-team mixed leagues, especially if you need some strikeout help. Outings like this will happen, but he’s also going to have some really solid outings more akin to his first two starts, and I think he has two or three more double-digit strikeout games coming. His stuff is that electric.