DENVER - Amid the hysteria of the Mets' decision to skip Matt Harvey for Sunday's series finale at Coors Field, it appears they made the right choice for his replacement long before Logan Verrett even took the mound against the Rockies.
"I joked with Matt the other day," Verrett said. "Why's everybody freaking out? Don't they know I'm a way better pitcher than you are?"
Verrett was smiling, and for good reason. That's the kind of story that gets told only after the performance he turned in Sunday, which was a spot-on Harvey impression. Starting for the first time in the majors, Verrett allowed four hits and struck out eight in eight innings to propel the Mets to a 5-1 victory and a three-game sweep of the Rockies, their first ever at Coors Field.
"That was really impressive," said Terry Collins, who finally had a relatively easy day compared with the anxiety of the first two 14-9 wins. "My heart is still in my chest, so I'll take it."
The Mets capitalized on more sloppy play by the Rockies, and especially starter David Hale, who let in two runs on back-to-back wild pitches in the second inning. Michael Conforto had three hits, including a double, and Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Recker each had an RBI as the Mets won their 10th straight against the Rockies.
During a season of remarkable twists and turns, Verrett's domination of the Rockies -- as a fill-in for Harvey, no less -- is right up there on the short list of surprises. Not that Verrett doesn't have the talent. But just how he wound up back on the Mets after being lost as a Rule 5 pick by the Orioles last December, then eventually returned by the Rangers, who cut him loose in April. Basically, Verrett was dumped twice, and now already has become a key component of the Mets' playoff push, first by beating the Rockies and later this week by returning to the bullpen, presumably for the remainder of this season.
Verrett survived a dicey first inning, thanks to some great defense, and navigated eight innings with just 93 pitches before Collins pulled him for a pinch hitter. The manager said he gave "zero" thought to letting Verrett try for the complete game because he was on a 100-pitch limit and hadn't thrown more than 85 while being stretched out at Triple-A Las Vegas.
He didn't realize it at the time, but Verrett's experience in the higher-altitude stops of the Pacific Coast League helped him at Coors, where the ball not only travels further in the thin air, but the low humidity can make it more difficult to grip. Still, Verrett seemed unfazed by either in throwing his slider and curveball, and the changeup that Carlos Gonzalez knocked out in the fourth inning could happen to anybody.
"I think it definitely helped," Verrett said of his PCL tour. "Pitching on the West Coast, you get used to pop-ups having a chance to go out. So you try to keep the ball down a little bit more."
The way the day began for Verrett, it seemed like it could be a short cameo. The Rockies opened with a pair of singles, but Murphy had a nice backhanded grab at first on Gonzalez's sharp grounder to start a key double play. And with a runner on third, Flores made a diving stop up the middle to end the inning.
"I don't think his job was to replace Matt Harvey today," Recker said. "We just wanted him to give us six or seven quality innings. And he was able to give us eight."