Today, while playing tennis, a group of kids watched behind the fence while waiting for their own hits to start. A flat serve to the body produced a short, sitting ball to my forehand that I promptly ran towards, only, I tripped over myself and flailed my racquet unsuccessfully at the ball. Clearly, I looked ridiculous, and from that fence I heard “BOOOOOOOO!” I laughed; it was a harmless event on all sides of the equation, and I didn’t think I’d ever recall this event again. Until but eight hours later, when Citi Field’s inhabitants lent their voices to that word whose length is as long as your fervor allows.
Sure, there were boos for the Nationals hitters during the first inning and Bryce Harper’s early plate appearances, but those are expected. No, the boos for the collective errors of the Mets led by the beloved Matt Harvey are what’s worth talking about. For these were not the boos of fans knowing that they should be directing their ire at somebody. These were confused boos. Boos that fans couldn’t believe they had to utter. It couldn’t have been fun to be any of the Mets players out on that field. It especially couldn’t have been fun to be Matt Harvey.
So what did they do to provoke such a reaction? Go against the trends, mostly. As was noted in hopeful optimism prior to today’s game, Harvey pitched like Matt Harvey should pitch during the first four innings of his starts this season, posting a 1.75 ERA. The middle innings, statistically, were where the worries should’ve laid. But instead, the Nationals struck early and often to the tune of 6 earned runs in 2.2 innings for Harvey. His only semblance of command was with his fastball, and when the breaking pitches stayed in the strike zone, hits were often found as a result. Two Nats players shrugged off trends versus Harvey and the season, respectively; Bryce Harper snapped an 0-21 streak against Harvey with a hit to right, while Ben Revere, owner of a .158 OBP, collected two hits. Not to mention the lack of support the Mets provided on both sides of the bat: Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto extended the seven-run third with an error at short that could’ve turned an inning-ending double play and a drop in left that would’ve prevented at least a run from scoring.
“Would’ve”, “could’ve” – what did they do? Well, after three hits and a run to cut the lead in half in the second, the game was absolutely not out of hand. Once that top of the third happened, however, the resignation of a loss was apparent. In addition, Stephen Strasburg didn’t allow many opportunities outside of the second. Unlike Max Scherzer’s 20-K gem where strikes were aplenty, Strasburg found himself in multiple full counts and starts behind in the count that turned into strikeouts thanks to impeccable command. The “Harvey’s better!” chants from a 2013 matchup sadly had its inverse true tonight.
Thankfully, a favorable triumvirate of Milwaukee pitchers come to Citi Field for a series beginning tomorrow. The Mets’ struggles are ones that should turn around with time. It’s difficult to imagine Matt Harvey continuing without a positive start, just as David Wright’s 33.5 K% should regress to his career levels. And, if nothing else, let’s hope Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t fall for Daniel Murphy pretending to catch a ball far over his head to stop him on the base paths again.
Photo credit: Noah K. Murray – USA Today Sports