David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Matt Harvey Redemption Tour continues tonight at Kauffman Stadium, where the Mets will hand him the baseball for Game 1 of the World Series. Terry Collins won't be in any hurry to take it back, either.
"He won't throw 150 pitches, if that's what you're thinking," Collins said.
That's not really what we had in mind, Terry. But now that the manager mentioned it, with the Mets going deep into October, the Harvey Rules certainly have changed.VoteSwing or take: Mets and potential free agents
Was it only a month ago that everyone fretted about each one of Harvey's pitches? And the innings? It all seems so pointless now.
"The whole Matt Harvey thing, I think the unknown is what prompted the whirlwind of attention," David Wright said before Monday's workout. "If you asked Matt if he wants to pitch in a postseason game, that's the dumbest question ever. I love the intensity. He definitely has that bulldog attitude, so I'm excited to see Tuesday for sure."
We never figured Harvey needed to pitch with a chip on his shoulder. But after what went down in September, with the media hitting him harder than Freddie Freeman ever could, there might be something to that. And it's worked out perfectly for the Mets, who now have turned to him twice for a series opener.
Harvey was the tone-setter for the NLCS, striking out nine in 72/3 innings in the Game 1 win over the Cubs. But that told Harvey more about himself than what we gleaned from his dominant performance.
For weeks, Harvey had wondered how many bullets he had left, swayed by the 180-inning rhetoric his agent, Scott Boras, flung at the Mets like a grenade.
That night at Citi Field, however, closed that argument for good, apparently. Even after reaching 202 innings for the season, Harvey said Monday that he never has felt better.
"I think the last one against the Cubs, finding out that I can still ramp it up there to 98 mph," Harvey said. "And it definitely let me know that I can be successful at 94, 95 and really just work on hitting spots. Mixing my pitches in."
Harvey also conveyed to the Mets that his shoulders, along with his surgically repaired right elbow, are sturdy enough for however long this is going to take.
During the previous two playoff rounds, Collins and Sandy Alderson faced the same questions about Harvey's availability -- how many games, how far into October. Now there's no longer a need for that.
And not just because there's only a maximum of seven games remaining in the season. Harvey has answered all the questions. And if the Mets ask him to pitch three times in the World Series -- two starts and once in relief, as the Giants' Madison Bumgarner did for the title last year -- Harvey will be ready, his hand waiting for the ball.
"I think anybody wants to do what he did," Harvey said.
Not anybody can, of course. And who will the Mets have left standing if it comes to that?
Jacob deGrom already would have pitched Game 6 the night before, and Collins chose to push him back to Game 2 to give him an extra day of rest, so the manager obviously is concerned about how much he has left in the tank. Noah Syndergaard would have started Game 7. Game 4 starter Steven Matz is young and relatively untested. So if crucial relief is needed, Harvey is the guy.
This World Series, Harvey is driving the bus, and Collins sounds thankful for that.
"We all salute Matt," Collins said. "He was put in a real tough situation a while ago. I don't know if it was handled perhaps the right way, but I know this guy well enough to know he wants the baseball. I think his conversations with David [Wright] and some of the other veterans, he realized the only way he's going to be that person he wants to be is out in the middle of that field. So he said, 'Give me the ball.' "
The last time a Mets ace made history, Collins had tears in his eyes afterward, fearing he irreparably damaged Johan Santana by allowing him to throw 134 pitches to complete the franchise's first no-hitter.
On Tuesday night, Harvey takes the mound against the Royals with a freedom he's rarely enjoyed since having Tommy John surgery two years ago.
For Harvey, it's the fight he's told us he wanted all along. And the gloves are off.