During what has been a season-long media blitz, Matt Harvey has been likened to Batman on the cover of Sports Illustrated and appeared nude in the pages of ESPN The Magazine.
In one newspaper article, he explored dabbling in show business, then followed up by appearing in a hysterical skit on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
Then Men's Journal took things a step further, casting Harvey less as Batman and more as wealthy playboy Bruce Wayne with a nasty fastball.
Later, the 24-year-old Mets phenom railed against the magazine for taking his words out of context, then admitted that their characterization left him feeling "embarrassed."
So, Harvey fired back.
In perhaps the most dominant start of his brief career, he struck out 10 with no walks while tossing seven shutout innings to beat the Phillies, 5-0, Sunday before an announced crowd of 32,127 at Citi Field for Doc Gooden bobblehead day.
"The way I was portrayed is not who I am and not the person that I am," said Harvey, who upped his record to 8-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.23. "I've learned from it . . . I'll move on and deal with it on the field. Fortunately enough, I was able to do that today."
Using the mound as his pulpit, Harvey worked with focus, each pitch seemingly designed to tear down another sliver of the unwanted image that had sprouted up around him.
"Matt was on a little bit of a mission today to silence all the other stuff that's going on and let everybody know he's here to pitch and he's here to play baseball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Today he went out there with a little bit of anger."
That anger translated into another excursion into the world of hyperbole. In recording his NL-leading sixth double-digit strikeout game -- he struck out the side in the third and fifth innings -- Harvey's fastball twice touched 100 mph. He topped out at 93 mph with his slider, which left Phillies veteran Michael Young wondering whether it was possible to hit. "You don't," Young said. "You take it."
The Mets bashed three home runs in support of Harvey. In the first inning against lefty Cliff Lee, David Wright and Marlon Byrd hit back-to-back homers, the first of the season for the Mets. Juan Lagares tacked on a three-run shot in the fourth inning for a 5-0 lead.
It was more than enough for Harvey, who warmed up in the bullpen and sensed that he might be in for a memorable day. Soon, everybody else knew it, too.
From behind the plate, catcher John Buck sensed that Harvey's pitches felt heavier when they popped into his mitt, an indication that the pitcher "had electric stuff right out of the gate." From the dugout, Collins wondered if this was the day that Harvey might throw a no-hitter, a feeling he's experienced several times this season. "He's pitched some good games," Collins said. "That might be the best stuff I've seen him have."
Harvey allowed just three hits. Of the 74 pitches he threw for strikes, 22 came on swings and misses. He walked none. His 2.38 ERA through his first 30 starts is the lowest in franchise history, better than Jerry Koosman and even Gooden himself.
In just the last week, Harvey started an All-Star Game in his home park, stomached his first taste of controversy, then doused it with pitches that big-league hitters couldn't touch. In the process, a potential future Hall of Famer (Carlos Beltran) hailed Harvey as the best pitcher he's ever faced, while another (Pedro Martinez) said he's seen enough to know that the righthander is exceptional.
"It's a tremendous thing to hear," Harvey said. "It obviously keeps the drive going. I've only had 30 starts so I have a long way to go hopefully. I just pretty much block it out, keep my head down, and keep going. That's all I can do."