A Near Perfecto for Mets Phenom Matt Harvey
(Former Met and Yankee turned Chicago White Sox Coach Robin Ventura returned to NY. Photos by Gary Quintal)
By Howard Goldin
On Tuesday night, the Pale Hose of Chicago made their first visit to Citi Field. The two teams had only previously played one inter-league series, a three-game set in Chicago in June of 2002. The ChiSox were the only team not to have played the Mets in New York. The contest on Tuesday was well worth the wait.
Two young hurlers, Hector Santiago, 25, of Chicago and Matt Harvey, 24, of New York entered into a duel that displayed star pitchers of the future.
The Mets phenom was drafted as the 7th overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The Connecticut native has been exceptionally impressive at every stage of his short baseball career, in high school in his native state, in college, UNC, and in the minors. Harvey only started 46 games in 1.5 years in the minors before being called up to the Mets in July of 2012.
Harvey was dazzling in his first start in the big leagues on July 26 when he held his opponents scoreless, fanned 11 and got two hits. The young right hander compiled an ERA of 2.73 in 19 starts during his first season in the majors. His strikeout average was 10.6 per inning.
Harvey has been even more impressive in 2013 than in his rookie campaign. He was undefeated, 4-0, in his six starts in April. He ranked 3rd in the National League with an ERA of 1.56 and 4th in strikeouts with 46. His efforts earned him the nod as NL Pitcher of the Month.
Harvey’s first start in May (the 7th) was a sensation. The young righty retired the first 20 batters he faced. The game became increasingly more interesting, exciting and suspenseful as the zeros appeared on the scoreboard.
With two out in the top of the sixth, Alex Rios grounded the 74th pitch thrown by Harvey deep to short. Rúben Tejeda fielded the ball and threw it to first, but the speedy Rios beat it to first. Mets catcher john Buck described the situation, “The pitch was right where I wanted it. He [Rios] just hit it soft enough [to beat it out]. “The lengthy (6.2 inning) perfect game bid was last accomplished by a Mets hurler (Rick Reed) in 2010.
Almost unnoticed in the interest in Harvey’s performance was the effectiveness of White Sox starter Hector Santiago. The New Jersey native who was a devoted Mets fan as a youngster was making only his second start of the year. The 25 year-old improved upon his previous effort. On May 2, the lefthander earned the win after yielding only two hits and one run in 5.1 innings.
On Tuesday, Santiago scattered four singles, walked two and hit a batter, but no runners crossed the plate during his seven innings on the mound. He was under personal pressure as his parents and many relatives were in the park to watch him.
Harvey pitched the 8th and 9th frames without giving up another hit, a base on balls or a run. He fanned a career high of 12. After the contest, Mets manager Terry Collins spoke about the rare and superlative performance of his young starter, “It seems every time we talk about this guy, it’s always something new and different. He was throwing any pitch he wanted for a strike. By the fifth inning, I thought he was going to throw a no-hitter. This is the night. He has everything.” The experience baseball has been astounded by Harvey’s progress, “The high advancement he made and the command I have not seen in one year.”
Surprisingly, Harvey was almost taken out in the first inning. His nose was bleeding before the game and in the early going, but then stopped. Mets manager Terry Collins remarked, “I thought I would have to take him out [but] nothing seems to faze him.”
Bobby Parnell earned his second win in the last three games after retiring all three batters in the 10th, two by strikeout. The righty has been unscored on in 12 of his14 games in 2013.
Ike Davis led off the 10th by drawing a base on balls, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored the only run of the game on a pinch single by queens native Mike Baxter. The pinch hitter supreme raised his batting average as a pinch hitter this season to .500 (4 for8). During the 2012 season, the clutch hitter led the majors with a .458 average as a pinch hitter (11 for 24).