Matt Harvey takes center stage at Yankee Stadium on Saturday and proceeds to dominate the Yankee bats that scorched the Mets the night before.
This is what it is like, in all ways, to be the ace of the staff and of the city, and the biggest baseball star we have right now in New York.
This is what it was like on Saturday afternoon for Matt Harvey at Yankee Stadium, from the first out he got in the bottom of the first until he threw a 98-mile-per-hour fastball past Alex Rodriguez to get his last out in the bottom of the ninth, as if saying something like this in that moment: Try and hit this, old man.
This was a Saturday afternoon at the Stadium, after the Yankees had slapped the Mets around pretty good Friday night, when the only real noise in the place was Mets noise, as Harvey shut up Yankee bats on this day the way he shut up Yankee fans because he was both brilliant and arrogant at the same time.
There was even the sense with him at the Stadium, the way he carried himself all the way until Terry Collins practically had to call for security to get him off the mound with two out and two on in the ninth, that he even relished the idea that his team had finally lost a game the night before after coming into this Yankee series, coming in hot, riding that 11-game winning streak.
“You know what the Mets losing (on Friday night) did for him?” Ron Darling was saying a few minutes before the game, outside his SNY booth. “It gave him the chance to come into Yankee Stadium and say to everybody, ‘Don’t worry. I got this.’ ”
He gave up a cheap run in the third, even though the Yankees didn’t get a ball out of the infield in producing it. He gave up a home run later to Mark Teixeira when he was simply pitching to the scoreboard and a 3-1 count because the Mets were winning big by then. He had thrown just 55 pitches after five innings and 67 pitches after six and 81 after seven, because as Darling would say in the middle of the game, “He’s so good he doesn’t care whether he strikes you out or not.”
Harvey shines in the spotlight proving why he is the city’s biggest baseball star at the moment.
It was supposed to be some kind of high drama on this day that he was facing Rodriguez. Sure it was. But only because of Harvey’s high heat. In the first he threw Rodriguez a couple of 97-mph fastballs past him before he buried him with his version of a changeup at about 90 for a swinging strike three. Later he got a comebacker from Rodriguez, and a weak grounder to short, before he finally threw that fastball that was like a roundhouse right in the ninth, against which Rodriguez was helpless.
Then Teixeira singled. Harvey walked Brian McCann. Collins came to get him, finally taking the ball after you could read Harvey’s lips as he said, “Come ON.” He is 4-0 now. This was about more than fastballs on this day, it was about attitude, too, and wanting to make sure that the Mets didn’t lose two in a row after having rolled that 11, most of it at Citi Field, as they were winning this baseball April in New York whatever happens on Sunday night against the Yankees.
“Good pitching prevents losing streaks,” the Mets manager, Collins, said when it was over.
There are the other two games in this Subway Series, and there was the Subway Series that had Harvey in it on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, where he once rooted for the Yankees as a Yankee fan. Again: You either are this kind of star or you’re not. He is. You can talk about all the other aces in baseball, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw and King Felix. There isn’t another starting pitcher in the sport for whom you would trade Matt Harvey.
Ron Darling knows. He is not just as good a television analyst for baseball as there is, working with Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez. He was also there for Dwight Gooden in 1984 and 1985, when Gooden electrified the city and you didn’t want to miss one of his starts the way you wouldn’t think of missing a Harvey start these days, at least if you can help it.
I asked him before Mets-Yankees on Saturday if he thinks there has been a starting pitcher like Harvey in New York, at either end of a Subway Series, since the young Doc Gooden.
“No,” he said, almost before I had finished the question. “And remember something: Dwight was as compelling as he was only because of what he did on the field. It’s different with (Harvey). It’s on the field, it’s off the field, it’s presence. It’s all that. If you are a 25-year-old guy in New York, you want to be him.”
In the sixth inning on Saturday, Harvey struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, looking, a fastball at 97 on the inside corner. Then he struck out Brett Gardner, looking, 97 again. Finally there was Rodriguez lucky to push a ground ball to Wilmer Flores at shortstop and that inning was over.
There were other stories to the day, of course. CC Sabathia, now 0-4, was a shell of himself, trying to get by throwing melons and cantaloupes and getting bounced from one corner of the Stadium to the other. The Mets hit three home runs. Juan Lagares went 4-for-4. With all that, this was Harvey’s moment at the Stadium. Telling his team and Mets fans: I got this.
He got better and stronger as he went. It was the kind of day when it was all right to look at him on the mound and remember what it was like when Seaver was young.
“This is a stage that he dies to pitch on,” Collins said afterward.
Harvey was the Subway Series Saturday. He was the player everybody wanted to see. He wanted the stage, he wanted the ball, he wanted the Yankees. Ace of the city, making their place his place.
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