Matt Harvey had already out-pitched Stephen Strasburg by the seventh inning of Friday night's Mets-Nationals game in Queens, but it was the seventh inning that was the turning point in the game and featured the definitive moment of his performance.
The Mets staked Harvey to a two-run lead on a pair of unearned runs in the first inning and added two more on solo home runs by Ike Davis and Lucas Duda off Strasburg in the sixth. Harvey prevented the Nationals from answering the first two runs by holding Washington to a pair of walks and a pair of hits, one a Strasburg double, through six, but he quickly found himself in trouble in the top of the seventh.
Adam LaRoche led off by battling back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk. Ian Desmond, whose error in the first led to the Mets' first run, followed with a single to left. Chad Tracy, starting at third base for the ailing Ryan Zimmerman, followed with another single that drove home LaRoche and moved Desmond into scoring position. After a visit to the mound by pitching coach Dan Warthen, Harvey got Steve Lombardozzi to hit a double-play ball to Daniel Murphy at second base, but Murphy's feed to Ruben Tejada pulled the Mets' shortstop off the bag and left the bases loaded with no outs.
That's when Harvey proved just how good he can be. Alternating his slider and fastball, Harvey struck out Kurt Suzuki on five pitches. He then fired four 96-mile-per-hour fastballs at pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina and got him to foul out to catcher John Buck. In nine pitches, he had picked up the two outs lost to Murphy's error. That turned the lineup over to Denard Span, who had the other Washington hit prior to that inning. Span took a pair of fastballs to go even on the count, then chopped a slider, Harvey's 105th and final pitch of the night, to second base for the third out, stranding all three runners. The Mets, with the help of another pair of homers from Davis and Duda in the eighth off of Drew Storen, went on to win 7-1.
For the fourth time in as many starts this season and the fifth time in his last five starts dating back to last season, Harvey went at least seven innings while allowing four or fewer hits and no more than one run. For this season, he improved his record to 4-0, but amazingly his ERA went up to 0.93, and with seven strikeouts and a season-high three walks and four hits, his peripherals all headed in the wrong direction to 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 0.66 WHIP.
How good has Harvey been through the first 14 starts of his career? Here's a quick comparison, inspired by a graphic shown on the Mets' telecast during the game, comparing Harvey's first 14 major-league starts to the first 14 major-league starts of Dwight Gooden, one of the best young pitchers in the game's history:
|IP||88 1/3||91 2/3|