Father’s Day at the ballpark. It just seems right.
This past weekend I decided that I’d surprise my dad, who’s the reason I am a Mets fan today, with tickets to Sunday’s game at Citi Field against the Chicago Cubs.
While it’s been a trying season, win or lose, everything was set up for a nice way to spend a day with my father.
My story is not atypical, but I figured I would share it.
After an early stop at McFadden’s, I took my dad around the ballpark, showing him amenities and views he hasn’t experience at Citi Field before. We’d spend a few innings in centerfield, then go up to the Pepsi Porch up until we made our way back down to Shea Bridge, where we would stay for the remainder of the day.
Inning by inning would pass and the Mets would continue to squander opportunities to score, but still, it was just a 1-0 deficit, anything can happen. That was up until the 5th inning where, after a great diving stop by David Wright, it appeared as if a scene from ‘The Benny Hill Show’ broke out onto a baseball field. One play, two runs, three balls thrown away, and a 3-0 Chicago Cubs lead.
Normally I’m an advocate of staying until that final out, because baseball is different from any other sport. There is no clock. No deficit is out of reach. Until the 27th out is recorded, anything is possible. However it was in the 8th inning, still at 3-0, when my father nudged me and said “let’s go”. On a normal day, there’s no chance I’m leaving that game, but it was Father’s Day—his day. So we left.
As we’re walking out I stop and look at him to say “you’re going to feel so stupid when they score 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th”, jokingly. “I’ll take my chances”, he retorted.
As we sit in traffic driving home, we flip on WFAN just in time for the 9th inning. Carlos Marmol, who is known to get out of control, was on the mound for Chicago, but I didn’t think much of it. As Howie Rose describes the length of Marlon Byrd’s solo HR to leadoff the inning I look over towards my father, nudging him that the comeback has begun.
It was after Lucas Duda’s walk and John Buck’s single where we begin to think something may actually be going on. As Omar Quintanilla successfully lays down a sacrifice bunt to move the tying runs into scoring position, traffic clears up and we start to make way towards home.
Then, before I can even say anything, it happens. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who had been batting .094 prior to his at-bat, blasts a 3-run, walk-off home run and the Mets win the game.
You’d think we’d be angry about leaving, and maybe we were a little, but we were too busy laughing as I repeatably hit him in the arm to notice or care.
Would being there for a four run rally in the bottom of the 9th been fun? Yes, but I think what happened will be even more memorable and a story that I can tell people for the rest of my life.
When a quality start isn’t good enough for a pitcher making his 16th career start, you know you’ve got something special.
On Wednesday night that’s exactly what happened. Matt Harvey went 6 innings, allowed 4 hits, 1 walk and 3 earned runs while striking out 7.
Harvey’s thoughts on his start? “I sucked.”
How can you not like this guy? A quality start is exactly what it sounds like: it’s quality, it’s okay, but nothing more. Neither of these words describe Matt Harvey, nor does he want them to. You see certain pitchers with all of the talent in the world who will just go to the mound every 5 days and pitch. Not Harvey. His work ethic is unlike any other that I’ve seen in a pitcher this early in his career. He’s constantly striving to make himself better, watching film and making adjustments. Just one year ago, his change-up was considered to be his worst pitch, and look how quickly that has turned around. Harvey was once projected to be a pretty good #2 starter—at best—yet he’s taken his talent and out of sheer work and willpower has transformed himself into a clear cut ace at age 24.
Let’s look at the numbers. Through 5 starts this season, Harvey is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA. That’s pretty darn good by itself, but let’s go deeper. Matt Harvey is striking out 31% of batters he faces (39 K’s in 35 IP), walking only 7.9% and 84.9% of the base runners he’s allowed this season have not scored. In Harvey’s career, he’s held the opposition to a .172 batting average, while hitting .286 at the plate himself.
It’s easy for Mets fans to get excited about Matt Harvey, and they should. This is not the norm and people all around baseball, not just the Flushing Faithful, are taking notice. Curt Schilling, now a Baseball Tonight analyst, has said if he could start a franchise with any pitcher in baseball, it would be Harvey. Dan Plesac, former pitcher & MLB Network analyst, said Wednesday night that Harvey has a higher ceiling than Stephen Strasburg. Even David Price, the ace of the Tampa Bay Rays, has tweeted that Matt Harvey is his favorite pitcher (not on the Rays) to watch. That’s high praise, and I agree with all of it. Harvey is tied for the Major League lead in wins (4), 1st in WHIP (0.69), 2nd in average against (.122), 3rd in strikeouts, 8th in ERA (1.54). There’s something special when Harvey takes the mound. There’s a buzz, an electricity even, in the air when he pitches—one that we have rarely seen in Citi Field’s brief history.
I wasn’t around for Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan, nor was I able to watch Doc Gooden, so I can’t and won’t compare him to pitchers from 20 or more years ago. What I can do is say that this is one of the most exciting pitchers I’ve seen on the Mets in my lifetime—including Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana—and I can’t wait to see what he does next.