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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Everyone owes Matt Harvey an apology

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33)

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) reacts after the final out in the first inning during Game 1 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

On second thought, Matt, we're sorry.

We take it all back. Everything. The whole 24-and-1 narrative, labeling your post-Tommy John surgery concerns as selfish, questioning your commitment to the Mets in light of the hysterical shutdown negotiations in September.

On the next workout day, if you're having a rough morning, hit the snooze button a few extra times. Enjoy a leisurely pumpkin-spice latte on the ride in. Oh, and don't sweat the tunnel traffic.

And while we're at it, Matt, pass the message on to Scott Boras, too.

Because after watching Matt Harvey in NLCS Game 1 Saturday night, we're pretty much done criticizing his past headline-hogging transgressions. As long as Harvey shows up like that, stifling the mighty 97-win Cubs into the eighth inning and setting up Jeurys Familia to close out the Mets' 4-2 victory in the opener of this best-of-seven series, he can spend his free time BASE-jumping off the Empire State Building in his bathrobe for all we care.

From the first inning, Harvey let the Cubs know they'd have more than a cursed history of billy-goat hexes and black cats to worry about. He came out creasing the strike zone with every pitch -- the mid-90s heater, the changeup, the knee-buckling curve -- and Chicago's stable of dangerous hitters couldn't do much more than stand there with their mouths open.

"Give him credit," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He had about as good a command as you possibly can of his pitches. His stuff is always good, but the command was outrageous tonight. I think he was absolutely on top of his game."

The Cubs' first batter, Dexter Fowler, whiffed on an 86-mph changeup. The next, Kyle Schwarber, went down waving at an 84-mph curve.

Of Harvey's first 44 pitches, 32 were strikes. And that's the way it went until there were two outs in the eighth, which is when Schwarber finally ended Harvey's night with a long homer to the base of the Shea Bridge.

Actually, that made it a perfect exit for Harvey. With the Mets in front 4-2, he walked off to loud applause and adoring "Har-VEY! Har-VEY!" chants before disappearing into the dugout.

That was the soundtrack of forgiveness. Consider Harvey's relationship with New York fully repaired. There should be no more mixed emotions when Harvey's name is brought up. With Mets Nation pleading for a superhero, Harvey gave them one.

"I wanted this game bad," he said. "I knew I had to kind of set the tone early. I know there's been a lot of speculation or talks going around the past month, but I wanted to stop all that and really do everything I could for the team and start off right."

Harvey was referring, of course, to the all-consuming discussions about his innings limits, a controversy for which both he and Boras were at least partly to blame.

Oops. Sorry. Forget we mentioned that, OK? Clean slate, right?

We're only looking forward now, and thanks to Harvey, the Mets have got to be feeling even better about getting past the Cubs than they were 24 hours earlier.

After his five-inning start in the NLDS, a game the Mets won anyway, there was a slight worry that maybe Harvey, as he approached the 200-inning mark, might be running out of gas.

No longer. With Harvey's dominance in Game 1 and another four days to rest, there's no reason to think he won't be fired up again for a Game 5, if necessary.

The Mets did get a momentary scare in the sixth when Fowler drilled a line drive off Harvey's right triceps muscle, but he quickly waved away Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez. They still examined him but allowed Harvey to stay in, and he even convinced Collins to let him go back out for the eighth.

"After I said the triceps was all good, it really wasn't much of a conversation after that," said Harvey, who struck out nine. "I give him a lot of thanks for trusting me to go back out there."

Can you really blame Collins? How could he not want a few more innings of that? He has publicly defended Harvey at every turn, during every Harvey-centric crisis, promising that he'll come through when the Mets need him the most. That big moment arrived Saturday night, and Harvey didn't make a liar out of his manager.

"I talk to this guy every day," Collins said. "I know exactly what he's made of. I know exactly what he's about -- and he wants the baseball. That's not just a mask he's putting on. This kid likes to compete."

Hey, it's all good. No hard feelings, right, Matt?


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