Happy Harvey Day, indeed.
For the first time since July 4, Mets fans were able to watch Matt Harvey take the mound in a game that actually meant something, and in this case, it was more significant than just team win No. 2 of the 2017 campaign.
After a tumultuous half-season last year in which Harvey went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA, 3.47 FIP and 1.468 WHIP—all of which were the highest marks of his career—the previously anointed “Dark Knight” of Flushing has faced quite a bit of adversity. Harvey’s ability was questioned, his weight was scrutinized and eventually the former ace underwent thoracic outlet surgery, ending his season prematurely.
The questions continued to rise as Harvey struggled with his velocity in spring training, failing to record swings and misses like many had been accustomed to in the past and pitching to a 5.89 ERA in five exhibition starts.
Despite all of the questions surrounding him, I still felt confident about Harvey entering the 2017 season. To me, it seemed apparent that the thoracic outlet syndrome was effecting him for the majority of 2016, as he altered his mechanics early in spring training and proceeded to consistently struggle with his location and velocity for the first time in his major league career.
As he stepped to the mound on Thursday night, few knew what to truly expect from Harvey. By the time he walked off of the mound in the 7th inning, however, it was clear that the Dark Knight had reappeared—at least for one night.
Harvey effectively pitched to contact against the Atlanta Braves, mixing and matching his pitches, locating well and keeping them off balance all night. After he recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman in the top of the 7th, the Citi Field crowd rose to their feet, with chants of “Har-vey” reigning down in a moment that brought back memories of the right-hander’s magical 2013 season.
Not only was he incredibly economic with his pitch count, but Harvey’s mechanics looked extremely fluid on the mound and his fastball had tremendous run on it, leading to a successful evening. Additionally, Harvey threw 55 of his 77 pitches (71 percent) for strikes.
While his night ended prematurely after allowing a second solo home run to Matt Kemp, Harvey once again showed Mets fans what he was capable of in his second “comeback” since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015. The box score won’t blow you away—Harvey finished with 6.2 innings, three hits, two earned runs, no walks and four strikeouts against a Braves team that isn’t quite murderer’s row—but for both Harvey and the Mets, this was an important step forward.
If Harvey can regain his form and even come close to his National League Comeback Player of the Year campaign in 2015, the Mets’ vaunted starting rotation becomes that much scarier for the rest of the league moving forward.
It was only one night, but I saw more from Harvey in this one start in Flushing than I did at any point during the 2016 season. If he’s able to build off of the success of this start going forward, I will have no problem saying that Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight, is finally back.
And if that’s the case, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Photo credit: Adam Hunger – USA Today Sports