Matt Harvey's incredible-hulk ability to suddenly and periodically transform the Mets from milquetoast to imposing presence Tuesday night led to an eventual, uplifting 1-0 victory over the White Sox, finally secured by Mike Baxter's one-out, pinch-hit RBI single in the 10th inning.
Lifted for Bobby Parnell (3-0) after sailing through nine innings, allowing only a scratchy infield single, Harvey had to settle for a no-decision. But the 24-year-old righthander's otherworldly pitching skill, which mirrors the name of his Mystic (Conn.) hometown, had its usual effect of lifting his comparatively commonplace mates to atypical heights.
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"It's good to come out on top," said Baxter, who followed Ike Davis' walk and Juan Lagares' sacrifice bunt with a sharp single to right, "and Harv's the reason we had a chance to do it. When he throws like that, it gives everybody energy. He kind of sets the tone and everybody kind of falls into a rhythm."
Harvey retired the first 20 batters he faced before Alex Rios narrowly beat out an infield single to shortstop Ruben Tejada's backhand with two outs in the seventh inning, then retired the last seven before giving way to Parnell in the 10th. He struck out 12, walked none and put 76 of his 105 pitches in the strike zone.
"Everything was working, and that's when it starts getting fun," said Harvey, who pitched through a first-inning nosebleed that catcher John Buck kidded was the result of Harvey asking "to throw more curveballs," Buck said. "So I punched him."
In fact, Harvey said he often gets nosebleeds and had the problem stopped "when they shoved everything they could up there." He then went about a dominance that had Terry Collins claiming, "In the fifth inning, I said, 'He's going to throw a no-hitter tonight.' You just kept saying to yourself, 'This is the night. This is the night.' He had everything going."
The only problem was the Mets' own threadbare offense. Though they put a pair of runners on base in both the first and second innings, they were able to scratch out only four hits in seven innings against White Sox starter Hector Santiago, stranding six. After Tejada's harmless single in the fifth, the Mets' only hit was Baxter's winner in the 10th, as Santiago and relievers Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones (0-3) retired 14 Mets in order before Davis' walk.
Behind Harvey, meanwhile, the Mets were airtight. David Wright (with a backhand pickup behind the third-base bag) and Davis (digging out Wright's bounced throw) combined to squelch Jeff Keppinger's bid for a single in the fourth inning, and centerfielder Lagares immediately contributed a long running catch in right-center on Rios' drive.
"After David made that play," Harvey said, "at that moment, I kind of realized this [no-hitter] might actually happen."
In every inning except the eighth, Harvey struck out at least one batter as he lowered his ERA to 1.28. In the dugout between innings, Buck said that his only discussions with Harvey were "business as usual," talking about basic pitching strategy, though Buck claimed he "teased him about his at-bats." Harvey, after a second-inning sacrifice bunt, struck out twice.
Of course, it was Harvey's mound wizardry that was dazzling the Chicago hitters and the sparse Citi Field crowd, announced at 23,394. He did not feel cheated by Rios' weak hit, Harvey insisted. "It's baseball. Tough play. The guys made all the plays behind me and John Buck called an amazing game."