The way Matt Harvey dominated the Yankees on Monday night, you’d think there still was some blue-and-orange pumping through him, along with whatever adrenaline boost came from seeing New Yorkers again.
How else can it be explained?
Harvey, who entered Monday with a career 1.63 ERA against the Yankees, had labored to be merely adequate in four previous starts this season. This time, however, it was 2015 redux, with Harvey channeling the old Dark Knight in holding the Yankees to one run in a season-high six innings. He allowed three hits, walked three and matched a season-best five strikeouts in the Orioles’ 4-2 win.
Last week, after Harvey’s first victory since 2019, he said he "didn’t know if it was ever going to happen again." Now he has back-to-back wins for the first time since July 2018, two months after the Mets traded him to the Reds.
"It’s probably the best I’ve felt in a couple of years," Harvey said. "Just everything was working well and mechanically felt good, felt strong, throughout the whole outing."
This wasn’t the intimidating Harvey who once ruled Flushing through fear. But he was effective nonetheless, relying on a four-pitch mix with a fastball that topped out at 95 mph as he trimmed his ERA to 4.26.
Harvey limited the Yankees to Gio Urshela’s bloop single and retired 11 straight through the first five scoreless innings before hanging a curve to Giancarlo Stanton for a two-out double and leaving a slider up that Aaron Judge smacked for an RBI double.
I asked Harvey if staring down the Yankees again might have provided a little something extra. It just seemed like a bit too much of a coincidence that his best performance in years happened with them in the building. But Harvey deflected that by saying he views the entire AL East as a challenge, not just his old pals from the Bronx.
"With Giancarlo and Judge in there, you can’t make a mistake," Harvey said. "Obviously I did that in the sixth but was able to keep the ball in the ballpark."
The Orioles signed Harvey in mid-February for virtually nothing — basically a $1 million pledge if he made the Opening Day roster — and that deal is making the Yankees look bad, too. General manager Brian Cashman opted to bolster his rotation by spending $11 million on Corey Kluber and $2.25 million on Jameson Taillon, but Harvey is outpitching both of them.
Kluber has a 5.40 ERA and 1.93 WHIP while averaging less than four innings in four starts; Taillon is at 6.23 and 1.27 and is barely over four innings.
Before watching Harvey on Monday night, I figured the Yankees’ duo eventually would surge past him once we were past the small sample sizes. Now I’m not so sure.
"The work that’s going on between starts is what’s making things much easier when I go out there," Harvey said. "I think really trusting that and then going out and just letting it all loose. Each start is a nice change and it’s definitely paying off."
Harvey looked as if he were doing more than just hanging on to a rotation spot Monday night. Though the triple-digit fastball is history, he’s using every corner of the strike zone now, with a nasty sinker that’s relatively new to his arsenal. The Yankees struggled to fight off that pitch and showed little resemblance to the team that typically dominates at Camden Yards. Entering Monday, the Yankees had hit 50 home runs in their previous 16 games there since 2019.
Harvey went 22-13 with a 2.50 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings for the Mets in 2013 and 2015. A few years later, he went almost two years between wins, an 0-5 stretch with an 8.16 ERA in eight starts and three relief appearances, but this year, he won twice in a span of seven days.
Before he faced the Yankees, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde stated the obvious.
"I’m sure he’s thought about it," he said. "I think it’s a big deal for him [to be in New York]. He had some great years there. I got to see the Dark Knight in ’15 in the playoffs [as a Cubs coach], and that was a cool moment. So I’m sure this is going to be a special night for him."
Hyde plainly stated what everyone already suspected. Harvey confirmed it without saying a word. But by owning the Yankees, it was just like old times.