It was only a video game.
But in the eyes of Matt Harvey, there are no such things as exhibitions, only competitions. Which is why last week, when he and teammate John Buck were getting beaten badly in a two-on-two game of NHL '13, Harvey could feel his anger rising.
It didn't matter that it was only a friendly clubhouse match, or that Buck had never played the game. For Harvey, the only thing that mattered was winning.
"It's not an exhibition game for Matt Harvey tomorrow,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You can bet on that.''
Indeed, Harvey will face some of the best hitters in the world Tuesday night when he starts the 84th edition of the All-Star Game at Citi Field. He joins Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as the only Mets pitchers to earn the honor of starting and will be the first to do so at his home park. But for the 24-year-old, the game is less a showcase of the greatest players in the world than yet another opportunity to demonstrate his raw power.
"He is bound and determined to be the best,'' Collins said. "That's all he ever talks about. And this is just another step so that he shows everybody that's going to be there tomorrow, people that are going to be watching TV, that he's as good as there is.''
In his first full season with the Mets, Harvey is 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA, numbers that underscore his moments of sheer dominance. Nobody in the National League throws harder. Nobody in the National League misses more bats. And nobody in the National League proved more deserving of the start.
"What a tremendous year he's had,'' NL manager Bruce Bochy said. "And [it] really wouldn't have mattered what city we were playing in with the year that he's had, the impressive numbers that he's put up. He would have been the starting pitcher.''
Harvey called the assignment "a huge honor,'' one that will come before many of the same fans who have crammed Citi Field for his regular-season starts.
"This opportunity is something I've always wanted,'' said Harvey, a first-time All-Star. "As a kid, you dream of being an All-Star. I never thought I'd start an All-Star Game.''
But Harvey has exceeded expectations in this charmed season. When the Tigers' Justin Verlander pitched in Port St. Lucie in spring training this year, Harvey watched every move. Now he will start the All-Star Game, just as Verlander did last season.
"Obviously, I wasn't used to that,'' said Verlander, who lit up the radar gun last season. "And I got wild because of it. But I wouldn't do it any other way.''
Harvey likely will face the same adrenaline rush.
"Everybody that ends up at this level, there's only so much guile, there's only so much tricking, there's only so much thinking you can do before people beat you,'' Reds slugger Joey Votto said. "You have to have the athletic ability. And Matt Harvey, he is one of the special few that has the capacity to do things physically that nearly everyone can't do.''
Harvey will be the first Mets pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Gooden in 1988.
"It's been pretty electric all year for me, so I imagine it's going to be pretty special,'' Harvey said. "It really has, it's been special all year. This opportunity is absolutely incredible.''
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