In the hours since Chase Utley's infamous slide, Matt Harvey had been painted as an avenger. The Mets wanted him to shut down the Dodgers after a painful Game 2 loss, and fans expected him to deliver some old-school retribution against what they thought was a dirty play.
Instead, on Monday night, Harvey was the fighter. He was neither untouchable -- he allowed seven hits in five innings and three second-inning runs -- nor did any Dodgers feel his wrath after Utley's slide, which broke Ruben Tejada's leg and led to extensive speculation that Utley, who did not play, or another Dodger would be plunked in return.
Harvey labored. He missed his spots. He got into jams and tried to navigate around them. In his five innings, Terry Collins said, "he worked harder . . . than I have ever seen him work at any time, any start."
It was enough -- more than enough, even -- as the Mets teed off against Brett Anderson to erase a three-run deficit on the way to a 13-7 victory in NLDS Game 3. "It was definitely a battle," Harvey said. "It was not ideal to be giving up runs like that that early in the game, or any runs at all, but I think obviously, the offense came up big, and it really picked me up when I needed help."
Harvey gave up three runs (two earned), walked two and struck out seven. He set down the side in order in the first and fought through four straight singles in the second. He put two runners on in the third but struck out three. The Mets scored four in the second to erase a 3-0 deficit, tacked on two in the third and added four more in the fourth to open a 10-3 lead. Harvey earned the win.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he showed what type of heart he had," Travis d'Arnaud said, "fighting right there and helping us out and going those five innings and putting up zeros for us."
Collins said that after giving up three runs, Harvey said, 'That's all they're getting.' That's all they got off him."
He added: "We always put Matt in a tough situation."
Tough was an understatement. Either Harvey won, or the Mets would have to face Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday night in an elimination game.
On top of that, Harvey hadn't pitched in 10 days. He was late to a mandatory workout last week and got lambasted by talking heads and fans alike.
Oh, and then there was the issue of retaliation, though that decision was mostly taken away from him. Collins said it was "too big of a game" to worry about retribution. When asked before the game if he planned to tell Harvey that, the manager responded, "Been told."
Harvey responded to the pressure not with untouchable stuff, Collins said, but with enough stubbornness to be just OK and pull it out anyway.
"He didn't have his quality stuff," Collins said. "He had to work the entire night to make pitches. He was deep in counts, he was falling behind, he was missing targets, and that's what you had to do, he had to go out and battle, and he just kept us in the game. He was bound and determined that they weren't scoring again."
It wasn't dramatic, it wasn't what most people expected, but it was more than enough.