COMMENTARY | The last time New York Mets fans got this excited over a young pitcher -- the last time a young arm created a buzz at the Mets' home park like the one we saw and heard last night -- was back in the mid 1980s when Dwight Gooden dazzled fans and dominated opponents.
There was no one better, no one who brought more fans to Shea Stadium, than Doctor K.
That was almost 20 years ago. Nearly two decades later, Matt Harvey is the new sensation.
Friday night, in front of 26,675 energetic fans at Citi Field, Harvey continued his dominance, pitching seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits while striking out seven. The Mets beat the Washington Nationals, 7-1, and Harvey improved to 4-0 on the year.
Right now, there's no player in baseball off to a better start than Harvey. That includes the Nationals' young ace, Stephen Strasburg, who faced off against Harvey for the first time.
The Mets got to Strasburg in the first inning, scoring two unearned runs. In the sixth, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda hit solo home runs to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. They both homered again in the eighth.
Strasburg pitched six innings and allowed four runs on five hits. He dropped to 1-3 on the year. Last year, he was 2-0 against the Mets.
In the sixth, after Davis' bat finally came to life, and after Duda went yard as well, the fans began chanting, "Harvey's better!" Yes, it was meant as a dig toward Strasburg, but there's more to it than that.
Harvey has become what Gooden was in the 80s. His starts are must-see, preferably in person. Fans are beginning to flock to Citi Field to see him pitch. This is only going to get bigger -- the buzz only intensifying as the season moves along.
It was very fitting, then, that Gooden came out to the ballpark last night. Gooden said he was there to see a great pitching duel. He knows a thing or two about those.
Seated in the first row to the side of the Mets' dugout, images of Doctor K were shown throughout the night on SNY, the television home of the Mets, as Harvey did his best Doc Gooden impression. Fitting, too, because Harvey idolized Gooden growing up.
"It's great that he was here," Harvey said about Gooden according to the New York Post. "I grew up watching the guy. That's something special. When I was younger, I grew up wanting to be that guy, wanting to be like guys of his caliber. For him to say stuff about me, to come to one of my starts, it's mind-boggling. I wanted to do everything I could to win.
And that he did.
Harvey was tested in the seventh inning. After allowing a run, an error by Daniel Murphy loaded the bases with nobody out. Harvey retired the next three batters to get out of the inning. After the third out, the crowd erupted. So did Harvey, who has now allowed only 10 hits over 29 innings this season.
"That was the loudest I've ever heard this place," Harvey said according to the New York Daily News. "It was awesome."
Kind of like how it was when Gooden was dominating the league back when the Mets were New York City's team.
"Awesome watching those two great pitchers go head to head tonight," Gooden tweeted afterward. "Look forward to watching a lot more of those for years to come."
Sounds like the 80s all over again.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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