Other than a Mets pitcher throwing a perfect game, it’s hard to imagine how Wednesday afternoon’s 7-1 victory over the Orioles could have been more perfect for the Mets and their fans.
The crowd of 8,035 got to warmly welcome back Matt Harvey to Citi Field. And then they got to watch the Mets pummel him for eight hits and seven runs en route to their seventh straight victory and a 5-0 homestand.
Two of the runs charged to Harvey scored after he walked off the mound with one out in the fifth to his third standing ovation of the day. The former Dark Knight was feted when he walked to the mound for the bottom of the first and when he came to bat in the second.
The Mets batters, most of whom never played with Harvey, treated him like just another mediocre pitcher throwing 92-mile-per-hour fastballs. The top seven batters in the order all had at least one hit against Harvey (3-3), whose ERA rose to 4.81 from 3.60.
Taijuan Walker (3-1, 2.20 ERA) allowed one run in seven innings. He was good, and the Mets' defense helped him immensely, with excellent plays by Michael Conforto, Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza, among others.
Peraza went 2-for-5 with two RBIs filling in for the injured Jeff McNeil at second base. McNeil, who was removed from Tuesday’s game with what the Mets called body cramps, was available off the bench. But the Mets didn’t need him.
"Our defense has been spectacular all year," Walker said (exaggerating a little, or a lot, since the defense was shaky early in the season). "We’re making big plays, especially the outfield, man. A pitcher could always appreciate them laying out, running into walls, and diving for balls for us. It was huge. I like to pitch to contact and the offense did a good job getting runs early and we just kept putting it on, so it was easy for me to go out there and just try to get quick outs."
After Harvey threw a 1-2-3 first, the Mets scored three runs on four hits to open the second. Pete Alonso doubled, Dom Smith singled, Pillar had a two-run triple, and Peraza singled to make it 3-0.
Smith had a two-out RBI single in the third to drive in Francisco Lindor, who had singled and stole second base.
In the fifth, Conforto smacked a one-out RBI single to make it 5-0. Harvey walked Alonso and then walked off the mound with his head down the whole way to the dugout. He had acknowledged the earlier ovations, but not the final one.
"What the fans gave me out there was pretty incredible," Harvey said of the first ovation. "I was holding back tears. I'm not going to lie about that."
Smith greeted Shawn Armstrong with an RBI double. It was Smith’s fifth consecutive hit over a three-game span. Peraza completed Harvey’s line with a two-out RBI single and the Mets had a 7-0 advantage.
Walker, who retired 11 in a row at one point, allowed four hits, walked three and struck out four.
The defensive awesomeness started with the second batter of the game. Pillar, playing center, ranged to the left-centerfield wall and caught a drive from Austin Hays while avoiding a collision with Smith, who was tracking the ball from left.
Hays was robbed again in the third when Conforto raced toward right-center and made a full-out dive to catch a bid for an extra base hit.
Just when the Orioles appeared to have some life in the eighth against Robert Gsellman – with the bases loaded and two outs, trailing by six – Peraza rose high to snare a line drive off the bat of Maikel Franco.
Drew Smith completed the good vibes with a 1-2-3 ninth in his return from Tommy John surgery. What was left of the crowd chanted "Let’s Go Mets!" the entire inning. Smith struck out Pat Valaika to end it and send the Mets into an off-day and then a nine-game road trip that begins Friday at Tampa Bay.
"The guys, I think, are getting more acclimated each time they play here," manager Luis Rojas said. "They feel at home. They feel backed up by the fans. The fans get into it. I think they give good energy to the guys and the guys go out there and they give their best."
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