Zack Wheeler can wait. With the Mets set to take their first spin with their top pitching prospect in the nightcap of Thursday's doubleheader against the Braves, staff ace Matt Harvey offered a performance to remember in the opener, which the Mets ultimately won 4-3.
Harvey no-hit the Braves for six innings before surrendering an infield single to Jason Heyward, one that owed more to mistakes by the pitcher and by first baseman Lucas Duda than anything else. Harvey fielded the ball near the edge of the grass by first base and after forgoing the opportunity to tag Heyward, made a soft underhanded toss that a better fielding first baseman would have caught on his way to the bag. Duda, making just his second appearance of the season at first base, had gone for the ball himself, and was closer to the pitcher than the bag at the time the ball was tossed:
Harvey quickly recovered via a strike 'em out/throw 'em out double play, whiffing Freddie Freeman and then ducking as catcher John Buck gunned down Heyward trying to steal:
The strikeout of Freeman was Harvey's 13th of the day, setting a new career high for the 24-year-old righty. From the outset of the game he had dominated the Braves hitters, reaching 100.85 mph with his inning-ending strikeout of Heyward in the first, according to the PITCHf/x data at BrooksBaseball.net and averaging 97.1 mph with his four-seam fastball.
Harvey allowed just two balls out of the infield through the first six frames, both on fly balls that were caught; the only blemishes to that point were a pair of third inning walks. From the last out of the third through the second out of the fifth, he struck out six straight hitters. He had 12 K's and a remarkable 20 swings-and-misses through six, but at 87 pitches thrown, the question was whether he'd have enough gas in the tank to complete a no-hitter if things got that far (his career high is 121 pitches, set on April 29 against the Marlins). Heyward's infield single rendered such considerations moot.
With the Mets expanding their 2-0 lead to 4-0 in the top of the eighth, Harvey came out for the bottom of the inning, but after walking Gerald Laird and yielding singles to Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons, he departed. The Braves plated all three three runners due to shoddy relief work by LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice, but Bobby Parnell preserved Harvey's sixth win via a four-out save.
In addition to setting a career high in strikeouts, Harvey retook the NL lead from Clayton Kershaw and Jeff Samardzija, both of whom have 104. His 22 swings and misses — eight with the four-seamer, 10 with the slider, four with the curve — were two short of his career high, set on April 3 against the Padres.