COMMENTARY | On a frigid night at Citi Field, Matt Harvey single-handedly warmed the hearts of an organization and its fans.
The New York Mets' hard-throwing righthander, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, made his season debut Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres. After pitching to a 2.73 earned run average in 10 starts last year, Harvey was every bit the dominating pitcher in his first start of the 2013 season.
He struck out 10 and allowed just one hit and two walks over seven innings.
"Matt pitched an absolutely, under the circumstances, an unbelievable game," Mets manager Terry Collins said according to the New York Daily News. "You walk out and grab that baseball in that kind of weather, it feels like a cue ball. The fact that he commanded his stuff as well as he did is impressive.
"Last fall, he wanted to show everybody his stuff was plus-stuff, which we all heard he was. But he's becoming a pitcher...This guy has every weapon you could possibly need to get people out. You don't walk around telling people you're not just here to be a big-league pitcher, you're here to be the best there is. You don't just walk around and say that stuff without being willing to pay the price. Matt Harvey's willing to do that."
Though it's super early, there's been a lot to like about the Mets through the season's first two games. Harvey's performance last night trumps everything else.
It was better than the sight of Lucas Duda, John Buck, and Ike Davis rounding the bases after hitting home runs Wednesday night. Better than the four and one third innings of shutout baseball the bullpen has thrown so far this season. Even better than the 2-0 record or the fact that the Mets have outscored their opponent 19-6.
That's how important Harvey is to this team -- this year and beyond. There's so much riding on his arm. He is the future.
The same goes for Zack Wheeler, who's starting the year in Triple-A Las Vegas but should get called up soon.
The Mets are building for the future, and they're doing it first and foremost with starting pitching. If Harvey pitches like he did last night, or even close to that, and Wheeler develops into the ace the Mets think he can be, which this year means at least showing the potential to become one, the Mets are setting themselves up for a future full of playoff baseball.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, we must remember that these are the Padres, a weak hitting team with low expectations coming into the season. If Harvey did what he did last night against the Washington Nationals or the Detroit Tigers, that would have added something to his accomplishment.
But this is the big leagues and these are big league hitters. The fact remains that Harvey was absolutely dominant in his first start of the season, in his follow-up to an impressive rookie performance a year ago.
Harvey threw 94 pitches last night. With each one, he gave the Mets, and their fans, more reason to believe.
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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