Matt Harvey's right elbow has launched a thousand tirades. Debates have raged about his propensity to make headlines, his punctuality on workout days, his desire to protect his precious right arm at the urging of agent Scott Boras.
Controversy has obscured his immense talent. But on Saturday night, in the Mets' 4-2 win over the Cubs in NLCS Game 1, there would be no forgetting why they endured great pains to ensure that he would be ready for his moment.
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"I really wanted to start things off the right way and get us rolling," said Harvey, whose sparkling performance embodied another solid night by the Mets.
In his second postseason start, Harvey limited the Cubs to two runs and four hits in 72/3 innings. He departed after allowing Kyle Schwarber's fourth homer of the postseason, a solo shot that landed deep in the Cubs' bullpen.
Still, he walked off to a rousing ovation, with a supercharged crowd at Citi Field serenading him with his own name: "Har-vey! Har-vey! Har-vey!"
The Cubs had beaten the Mets in all seven regular-season meetings, but entering the NLCS, the Mets insisted that they are a different team. Then they proved it.
Daniel Murphy hit his fourth homer of the postseason, blasting an 87-mph cutter from Jon Lester for a solo shot that hit the facing of the upper deck in right. Travis d'Arnaud hammered a towering solo shot in the sixth that bounced off the top of the Home Run Apple in straightaway centerfield, a target he's aimed for in batting practice but never struck until Saturday night.
Curtis Granderson continued what has been a strong postseason, knocking in a pair of runs with a two-out RBI single in the fifth to snap a 1-1 tie and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
With a two-run lead to protect, Jeurys Familia slammed the door. Two days after pitching the last two innings of the NLDS-clinching win over the Dodgers, he recorded the final four outs against the Cubs. He has retired 20 of the 22 batters he has faced in the postseason.
"I think everything that we're doing right now, we're playing pretty good baseball," manager Terry Collins said.
In their first postseason appearance since 2006, the Mets have found a winning template.
Familia has shortened the game by showing the ability to work more than one inning, taking the Mets' shaky middle relievers out of play.
Power has been a constant. Murphy's four postseason homers equaled the franchise record shared by Carlos Delgado (2006), Mike Piazza (2000) and Rusty Staub (1973).
"We've worked so hard to get here, so why not enjoy it while we're here?" said Murphy, who is hitting .320 in six postseason games.
The Mets provided plenty of support on a night in which Harvey flashed near-total command of his arsenal. The performance energized a fan base that had briefly questioned his priorities. He fed off the energy of 44,287 fans gathered at Citi Field for the Mets' first NLCS game since 2006 and first-ever playoff game against the Cubs.
"It was a chilly night but you felt like the fans kind of kept that adrenaline pumping," David Wright said.
Harvey stoked the emotions as well. For the sixth time this season and the first time since Aug. 11, he pitched into the eighth. He struck out nine, egged on by those who stood and waved orange towels whenever he got to two strikes.
Harvey took a perfect game into the fifth, when things went haywire. It began with Harvey himself, who plunked Anthony Rizzo with an 0-and-2 fastball. The mistake proved costly when Juan Lagares misread Starlin Castro's liner to centerfield. The ball got over Lagares' head for the first hit against Harvey and allowed Rizzo to score from first. But Yoenis Cespedes helped restore order, nailing Castro at the plate when he tried to score on Javier Baez's one-out single to left.
Little could rattle Harvey -- not even a line drive off the bat of Dexter Fowler that smashed into his right triceps. He waved off trainer Ray Ramirez, who came out for a visit anyway. The Mets' bullpen came to life, but Harvey stayed in the game.
After a second half spent carefully managing his innings, things suddenly were different. At 91 pitches, Harvey hit for himself in the seventh. He came off the mound with 202 innings under his belt. And for the first time all year, nobody was counting.
"His stuff is always good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But the command was outrageous tonight. He was absolutely on top of his game."The Mets even manufactured a run in the seventh as Juan Lagares singled, advanced to second on Harvey's sacrifice bunt, stole third and came home on Granderson's sacrifice fly. Granderson's seven postseason RBIs are second to the Royals' Kendrys Morales.
"There's a bunch of ways you can win a baseball game," Michael Cuddyer said. "And by no means do you want to be a baseball team that only knows how to win a certain way."