Matt Harvey outduels Stephen Strasburg; Ike Davis, Lucas Duda hit 2 homers each
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For 5½ innings, that had to do with the term ballplayers apply to pitchers' most difficult-to-hit material -- moving fastballs, sliders, curves, whatever -- as each team's right-hand man virtually mirrored each other's success quieting opposing bats.
Then entirely different things developed on the way to the Mets' 7-1 victory, including a pair of home runs apiece by Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, the latter lifting some of the gloom in the midst of his second straight dreadful April slump.
In the end, the Mets found warmth in snapping that three-game losing streak suffered in cold, cold Colorado earlier in the week with more than just pitching.
But that didn't begin to develop until Strasburg's final inning, the sixth, when Davis and Duda hit long solo homers to provide the first earned runs of the game and prompted Mets fans to break into a chant of "Harvey's better! Harvey's better!"
"Strasburg obviously made me look foolish the first two at-bats ," Davis said, "so I just didn't want to miss the fastball I got over the plate."
The worst Harvey (now 4-0, 0.93 ERA) had to endure was a longer-than-necessary seventh inning before being removed for a pinch hitter. After allowing a walk and back-to-back singles by Ian Desmond and Chad Tracy for Washington's lone run, Harvey watched a potential double play evaporate with Daniel Murphy's throwing error.
"That's the mark of a true ace," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He was tired and he knew he had to get out of that inning. He picked up his fielders."
Desmond's first-inning fielding error led to two quick Mets runs, but Harvey and Strasburg, both 24 and 6-4 -- though Strasburg's knicker-style pants with high red socks somehow made him appear to be the shorter of the two -- demonstrated the worthiness of being mentioned in the same sentence as former ace Dwight Gooden (who happened to be in the stands Friday night).
Strasburg (1-3, 2.96 ERA) allowed just the two unearned runs until Davis and Duda homered. He gave up five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings. Harvey surrendered one run, four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
"I think I learned from tonight's start," Harvey said, "that I came out the first inning a little too pumped up.
"As it went on, I could feel my body get a little tired. Maybe I can learn to tone it down a little bit."
Collins said he could tell Harvey was "sky-high" before the game because "he was grouchy. He's usually not quite that grouchy. When your manager walks up to you and the first thing you want to do is bite his head off, you're a little bit on the edge."
Of course, Collins loved it. As for Harvey, "I'm going to take the 24-hour rule and definitely be happy about this start and this win," he said. "And tomorrow, it's time to get to work and prepare for my next start."