David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Even though the World Series is over and the Mets didn't win it, long after snow covers Citi Field, the memory of what Matt Harvey did Sunday night in Game 5 will live on for a very, very long time.
The Mets won't be traveling the Canyon of Heroes, thanks to their 7-2, 12-inning loss to the Royals, but they had a chance into the ninth because of Harvey. Before he even threw a pitch in the ninth, he sprinted from the dugout, ahead of his teammates, and picked up the baseball as the first chants of "Let's Go Mets!" rocked the ballpark.
He couldn't hold a 2-0 lead, and his two baserunners wound up scoring to force extra innings. But that doesn't take away from all the positives.
Each inning, Harvey stormed off the mound, pumping his fists, yelling along with the sellout crowd. Twice he struck out the side -- something that only the Indians' Carlos Carrasco was able to do to the Royals this season -- and whiffed nine overall.
The American League champions pushed only two runners as far as second in the first eight innings. With the Mets batting in the eighth, the fans screamed, "We want Har-vey!" until they got their wish in the ninth.
When he popped up the top step, the crowd roared, and he sprinted across the field, hopping over the foul line. The fans couldn't wait to see him, and Harvey was just as excited to finish the job.
But he couldn't. A walk to Lorenzo Cain was followed by Eric Hosmer's RBI double, and he was done. As Terry Collins came to the mound, he flung the ball into his glove, frustrated.
Not only was Harvey called on to save the Mets' season, the subplot to Game 5 was a case study in the physical boundaries for a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery. What could he possibly have left in the tank? If not for Sandy Alderson going toe-to-toe with Scott Boras in September, maybe Harvey never would have decided to push himself this far, way beyond the 180 innings his agent crowed about.
We thought he had to be near the end, the needle leaning toward E, after the disappointing outing in Game 1 at Kaufmann Stadium. His velocity dipped, his command was off and the movement on his pitches was lacking. Mets officials behind the backstop noted that he had zero that night and were surprised to see him get through six innings.
Afterward, Harvey agreed, saying he didn't feel great and didn't have his best stuff. For a World Series opener, that was alarming. Harvey failed to hold 1-0 and 3-1 leads before the Royals tied the score in the sixth, which is what really bothered him.
The snap judgment was that he had hit the wall. Too many innings, too intense a workload, the exhausting price to be paid over a seven-month season. Harvey wouldn't cop to that, and pitching coach Dan Warthen denied it. But what else could it be?
Later, Harvey clued us in. The extended layoff -- something that irritated him occasionally in the regular season -- seemed to play a role. As the Mets' Game 1 starter for both the NLCS and World Series, Harvey had 10 days off in between, the consequence of sweeping the Cubs.
For Game 5, however, Harvey would be on his regular five-day turn, and that was something he looked forward to. During his Saturday news conference, he repeatedly mentioned the benefits of "normal rest" and the factor it would be in his Royals rematch.
"Obviously, I wasn't real excited how the first go-round was," Harvey said. "I don't feel necessarily any different that I did going into the series. But I think obviously after facing a team for the second time, you can figure some things out. Obviously having normal rest makes a big difference as well."
That was apparent almost immediately. Harvey quickly dispatched Alcides Escobar, who hit the leadoff inside-the-park homer in Game 1, by going slider-fastball-changeup-slider-slider for the opening strikeout. The strategy against the free-swinging Royals remained heavy with secondary pitches, and Harvey followed that blueprint by leaning on a superb slider, one of his best this year.