Hours before he threw his first pitch Wednesday night, Mets phenom Matt Harvey found a comfortable spot in the dugout, where he let his imagination drift away. Just as he did this offseason, when he arrived at any empty Citi Field to work out, Harvey filled in the details in his own mind.
He envisioned the roar of the fans, the rush of pitching deep into a game, the feeling of total command that he strives for in every start.
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"That's kind of my time to take some breaths,'' said Harvey, who turned his vision into reality when he allowed one hit in seven shutout innings to lead the Mets past the Padres, 8-4.
Pitching in frigid weather, made even worse by a constant, swirling wind, Harvey did not allow his first baserunner until the fourth. He struck out 10, one short of his career high, and left after facing one more hitter than the minimum.
"Obviously, my first outing here, there's going to be some adrenaline going,'' said Harvey, whose fastball hit 97 mph. "But I wanted to attack the hitters. I'm not trying to light up the radar gun. Sometimes it's harder, sometimes it's not.''
Lucas Duda hit a two-run homer into the upper deck in rightfield in the second. John Buck added a two-run shot to the opposite field in the fourth. And Ike Davis capped a four-run fifth with a two-run homer that landed just short of the Shea Bridge.
The Mets equaled a franchise record by scoring 19 runs in their first two games, a total they needed seven games to reach a year ago.
"It's been a different guy every night,'' Duda said.
Yet, despite the offensive fireworks, it was Harvey who brought the heat on a frigid night before an announced crowd of 22,239 huddled on a windswept 44-degree evening.
Dominance, and all the ways to achieve it, is what occupies much of Harvey's mind when he begins preparations in the winter. Following his rookie campaign, Harvey pushed his body through a grueling routine, which included his sessions at Citi Field. He took that same focus into spring training, where he showed flashes of the electricity he brought with him to the mound Wednesday night.
And then Wednesday, as the grounds crew prepared the field, Harvey slipped into a place in which imagination was his only limit. He reviewed tape of the Padres, who thrashed him last year. An hour before the game he turned his focus to fulfilling his vision.
"No question he enjoys the stage,'' manager Terry Collins said.
One by one, the Padres stepped to the plate, and Harvey forced them into awkward swings. He retired leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera with a 97 mph fastball. He got Jedd Gyorko to reach helplessly for a nasty slider in the second. Twice, he caught Padres catcher Nick Hundley looking at sliders, both for a called strike three.
Of all the pitches in Harvey's repertoire, his changeup may need the most work. But against the Padres, the pitch looked to be a finished product. In the seventh, he fooled Cabrera and Venable with changeups.
"All his stuff's electric,'' Buck said. "He was getting a lot of swings and misses late in counts with that elevated fastball and he was efficient with the fastball.''
For Harvey, the preparation led to his ultimate payoff, his vision realized.