After a solid 10-start performance in 2012 (3-5 record, 2.73 ERA, 70 K in 59.1 IP), the right-hander was penciled in to be a main contributor in a mostly young Mets rotation in 2013. He delivered against the San Diego Padres last week with seven shutout innings, but it was his April 8 start against the Philadelphia Phillies that really impressed me.
During his effective outing, it was evident there were times when the young hurler leaned on veteran John Buck for some guidance during tight situations.
There were times throughout this series opener when the Phillies could have either jumped out to a lead, or cut the deficit to make things uncomfortable for Terry Collins and company. However, that time never came, and it was those times when I could see Buck take control to help Harvey through. It happened on more than one occasion, but I noticed it the most in the fifth inning. New York was in control with a 7-1 lead but pitching in a hitter-friendly park like Citizens Bank, multiple-run leads can disappear quickly. And it seemed as if Harvey was well aware of that, especially knowing he needed three more outs before qualifying for his second win of the season.
After watching his teammates knock out Roy Halladay in the top half of the inning, he proceeded to start the bottom of the fifth with a walk to Laynce Nix. That prompted a quick chat on the mound between him and Buck, who was undoubtedly calming Harvey down before going after Humberto Quintero, whom he eventually struck out. Following that, I saw the two of them lock eyes for a second, and all Buck did was nod his head, and you could see the complete trust Harvey had in him.
What did he do next? He struck out Ezequiel Carrera and Ben Revere to end the inning.
When holding a lead, the fifth inning can be a tough time for young pitchers because they're thinking ahead, and they start to get a little nervous because all they need is three more outs before qualifying for the win. That thought alone can be the difference between a pitcher keeping it together for the remainder of his outing, or falling apart and losing the commanding lead he once had. Again, the veteran presence and assurance that Buck provided helped him get past what could have been a deadly walk to start the inning, and eventually put a zero up on the board instead of igniting a rally by the opposition. I know I've been on a John Buck kick the last couple days, but he clearly mentored and guided him through the fifth inning, giving him a lesson for the future along the way.
Once Harvey got past that, he lasted two more frames, leading to an impressive and convincing win against a divisional rival, throwing seven innings and striking out nine hitters. He gave up only one run. Like I said earlier, he has some big expectations to live up to this season, and he's done nothing but exceed them in his first two opportunities. The 24-year-old carries himself in a way that not many young pitchers do, and you can see that in how he maneuvers his way through the games he starts. When he needs some assistance and that on-field support system, he has the luxury of turning to a veteran catcher to lean on.
Now, he can enjoy winning his second straight start with a sparkling 0.64 ERA, and he can take the confidence he gained and lessons he learned into the next time he takes the mound.
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- Matt Harvey
- John Buck
- Philadelphia Phillies