The Metropolitan: Harvey Day (2021 edition)

Mets win another wild one, welcome an old friend today

Good Morning,

Happy Harvey Day?? Technically it is, but with the former Met wearing a different shade of orange and acting as the villain, instead of the hero Gotham never deserved. We will talk much more about Matt Harvey in a bit.

But first, the Mets have won six in a row and are alone in first place, after another thrilling win last night. Let’s recap their 3-2 comeback victory.

⚾️ IN SHORT: The Mets got another sterling outing from Marcus Stroman (6.1 IP, 1 ER on 4 hits), more solid relief pitching (2.2 IP, 1 ER), and ninth inning heroics from Dom Smith (game-tying RBI), the immortal Patrick Mazeika (game winning fielder’s choice) and Jonathan Villar, whose explosive speed beat the throw home for the winning run against Baltimore closer Cesar Valdez. [Box Score]

🔑 KEY MOMENT: After Smith laced a single to right-center with one out in the ninth to knot the game at 2, third-string catcher Mazeika came up with Villar at 3rd and a chance to win the game. Once again, he did not disappoint. After 8 pitches, the pinch hitter hit a sharp grounder to first base, narrowly scoring the speedy Villar, who beat the throw after running on contact.

  • UNBELIEVABLE: Mazeika has three career at-bats, two walk-offs, and zero hits! He becomes the first MLB player to have three RBI before he got his first career hit since Cincinnati's Joe Brovia in 1955, per Stats by STATS.

3 TAKEAWAYS

PITCH PERFECT: Stroman was once again in total command, eliciting eight ground ball outs in the first 4 innings, flashing an elite sinker and the kind of leather that won him a Gold Glove. After he was removed in the 7th (more on that decision in a minute), the bullpen continued its solid work: Aaron Loup got two key outs to finish the inning, Trevor May scattered a tough-luck run in the 8th on a Freddy Galvis bunt (but otherwise looked strong), and Jeurys Familia kept the Orioles off the board in the 9th.

SUDDEN DEPTH: The Mets victory featured numerous contributions from players not envisioned as starting players when the season began. Pillar got the 9th started with a leadoff single (following an apparent game-tying HR that was overturned by the umps), Villar followed with a key hit before scoring the winning run, and Mazeika put the ball in play to make it all happen. In addition, Tomas Nido scored the Mets’ first run of the game after drawing a walk in the 8th, and Jose Peraza delivered a key hit in the 6th. The roster is deeper than it’s been in years.

HEALTH SCARES: In a hold-your-breath moment, Albert Almora crashed into the centerfield wall in the 8th, in an attempt to make a spectacular catch on a deep fly ball (see below). After the collision, he was bleeding and lay face down on the field, leading Luis Rojas to pull him from the game. Rojas said after the game that x-rays were negative, but that Almora still had shoulder pain, and will receive further evaluation today. On a less violent note, Jeff McNeil left the game after the 3rd inning with “body cramps.” Rojas said he was removed as a precautionary measure and "should be fine with some hydration."

💼 MANAGER’S CHOICE: Stroman was humming along for six innings before running into trouble in the 7th, when he scattered two singles and got an out on a sacrifice bunt. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, and one out, Rojas opted to intentionally walk the #8 hitter Pedro Severino, smartly forcing opposing manager Brandon Hyde to pinch hit for pitcher John Means (who had stymied the Mets all night). More controversially, Rojas proceeded to replace Stroman with Aaron Loup, who promptly allowed an inherited run on a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning on a grounder.

🗣️. TWEET OF THE DAY: After the game, Almora had this to say about the play that caused him to depart the game:

🧑‍🏫 SOUND SMART: According to available Stathead data, the Mets have had eight walk-off RBIs on fielder’s choice plays since 1962. Patrick Mazeika has two of them in the last four days.

NEXT UP: For the first time in three years, Matt Harvey is returning to the Citi Field mound today at 12:10 p.m., facing off against Taijuan Walker. Harvey is pitching well as the Orioles’ #2 starter, compiling a 3-2 record and 3.60 ERA (much more on him below). And Walker has been strong for the Mets, to the tune of a 2-1 record, 2.38 ERA, and increased velocity on all five of his pitches.

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HEALTH UPDATES: Manager Luis Rojas updated the media on several injured players on Tuesday. He indicated Brandon Nimmo (left index finger bruise) is closest to returning. J.D. Davis (left hand sprain) and Luis Guillorme are progressing but probably won’t be ready to return when first eligible to come off the IL later this week.

🧰 MECHANICS: Jacob deGrom is optimistic he will only miss one start from his right side tightness. He told reporters on Monday that his biggest concern is fixing his delivery: “Having looked at it the past couple days, my direction to the plate, noticing I was underneath the baseball and looking at a couple positions that I’m in before release.” The Mets called up RHP Sean Reid-Foley after officially moving deGrom to the 10-Day IL.

  • RELEASE POINT: As we have shown before, deGrom appears to be tilting his back at a different angle to compensate for his side tightness, resulting in a lower release point. He had similar issues last season when he was scratched from a start due to neck tightness.

🔝 PROSPECTS: Three Mets made Baseball America’s latest Top 100 Prospects list: Francisco Alvarez (40th), Ronny Mauricio (57th), and Pete Crow-Armstrong (100th).

🗿 STATUE: The Mets announced on Tuesday that they will delay the unveiling of a Tom Seaver statue set to stand in front of Citi Field until Opening Day 2022.

🎤 IN LIVING COLOR: After a year-plus of only doing media interviews by zoom, MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to new protocols that will now allow some to be conducted in person, six feet apart, from the stands.


What is Matt Harvey now?

🧓 by Jeffrey Bellone

Six years ago, Matt Harvey sat in the Mets’ dugout nursing a 2-0 lead and a Joe-Namath-sized ego after pitching eight dominant innings in Game 5 of the World Series. Had his night ended right there, who knows what would have happened. But as Mets fans know, it didn’t. He argued his way back onto the mound for the 9th inning and the rest is history.

That fateful October night was the last we saw of Harvey as a pitcher with supernatural powers. He struggled the following season and was later sidelined due to thoracic outlet syndrome. The brash right-hander who seemed destined to become the next great Mets starter in the lineage of Seaver, Koosman, and Gooden had suddenly disappeared, as if he had assumed the responsibility for Harvey Dent’s death.

After starting his career 25-18 with a 2.53 ERA — a streak of greatness that rivals Jacob deGrom’s — he would only win 16 more games in a Mets uniform over the next three years, his unceremonious ending coming in 2018 when he was designated for assignment and traded to the Reds.

Fast forward to today and Matt Harvey finds himself on a New York mound again, although not exactly returning to save the city from an evil villain. To his credit, he’s risen to the number two spot in the Orioles’ rotation, a position that seemed impossible to imagine him occupying (even on a bad team) after his last comeback attempt fizzled with the Royals.

Harvey is 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA on the young season, his best numbers since 2015. 

But who is this version of the Dark Knight? Is Matt Harvey finding a piece of his old form?

He’s certainly not the flamethrower he once was when he threw 96+ with swing-and-miss stuff. His four-seamer sits closer to 93 MPH these days, with a lower spin rate and less rise. He can no longer stand on the mound with that patented bump under his lip and simply antagonize hitters with his best stuff. He needs to work more methodically now.

That said, his pitch mix is starting to look similar to how it did during his hey-days. He has resurrected his sinker, a pitch he struggled to keep inside the ballpark after leaving the Mets. He is now locating it much better, lower in the zone, which has generated more ground balls and contributed to a drastically reduced home run rate—perhaps the most telling factor of his recent success. 

Without his sinker, he only had one pitch he could command for a strike, leading to a spiked walk rate over the previous two seasons. Besides a blip in 2017, he has always located his slider pretty well, so if he keeps his sinker from turning into a meatball, he can throw enough strikes to be effective.

Noticeably different in Harvey’s repertoire is his curveball. He has changed the shape of the pitch, adding significant sweeping action at the expense of drop, profiling it like a slow slurve. It’s a pitch he has to be careful with if he doesn’t throw it toward a lefty’s back foot or down and away to right-handers, as Bobby Dalbec reminded him in his last start. He still throws a change-up to left-handed hitters, but he has struggled to get whiffs this season.

His slider remains his best breaking pitch. For the first time since 2015, he is inducing a whiff rate above 35 percent on the offering. It remains a great pairing to his fastball, and with his curve now sweeping away from righties, he can be deceptive with his slider’s late-breaking cut.

Is Matt Harvey ever going to be a dominant pitcher again? I think we all know that is unlikely. He has reached a new chapter of his career where smarts will matter as much as stuff. His fastball doesn’t have quite the same punch, and he will eventually give up more long balls, but if he continues to locate his sinker down in the zone and perfects the shape of his breaking balls, he can probably find a role as a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter. Not quite the superhero he once was, but a starter the Orioles could certainly use right now.

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⚾️ Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Wil Myers of the Padres tested positive for COVID-19. They must isolate from the team for 10 days and test negative, before getting cleared to return.

⚾️ Two-way star Shohei Ohtani struck out 10 over 7 innings of one-run ball… and then moved to right field so he could bat in the 9th. He finished 1-for-4 at the plate.

⚾️ The Oakland A’s are exploring a potential move if the city does not approve its proposed waterfront stadium project.


🔗 Noah Syndergaard Thinks Baseball Has Gotten Soft—and Humans Have, Too, by Clay Skipper, GQ:I think baseball has gotten soft, too,” Syndergaard told GQ. “I think there should be some more shit-talking. I agree with what Bauer recently said: [about the celebration], he gave up two home runs to Tatis, and Tatis heckled him pretty good. I think that's awesome. I agree with Bauer, that does not warrant somebody to get thrown at.”

🔗 Patrick Mazeika quickly becoming Mets’ lucky charm, by Ken Davidoff, NY Post: “Do the Mets have themselves a lucky charm? Or is Patrick Mazeika’s true sorcery the simple ability to make contact in an era of three true outcomes? Either way, this has proven one hell of a homestand for the Mets’ rookie.”

🔗 “A moment in the Mets game that showed what a universal DH will take from us,” by Andy Martino, SNY: “It has become fashionable to complain that pitchers can no longer hit, or even handle the bat enough to bunt. Okay, fine. But if the next Collective Bargaining Agreement makes permanent the universal DH that we glimpsed in last year’s pandemic season, we will never again be able to watch managers match wits like they did in the heat of a close, late game Tuesday night.”

And… we leave you with a warm reunion yesterday between Matt Harvey and Mets staff to give you some nostalgic feelings…

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