(NOTE….ALL GAME SUMMARY FROM MLB.COM, I DIDN’T GET TO WATCH THE GAME)
Well, I said it in my game preview yesterday. Matt Harvey is a major stud. And that is being weak in my compliments. He is what the Rox have had only once in their 22 years of existence, and that only for half a season in 2010. He is what the Rox hope Gray or Freeland or Hoffman might become (the two kids they drafted this year also might be included but they are a ways away obviously). Eddie Butler in 2013 looked like he might have a chance to be that good…but I think the PurpleRow comp to Jake Arrieta (if Butler figures it out) is more likely. Actually the only guy who has looked even close to that dominating in a Rox uni since 2010 is Tyler Matzek late last year (Matzek is back at AAA getting ready for some late season pitching…his stuff is still nasty – remember he kept guys from scoring in April…despite walking a clubhouse full). Matt Harvey in other words is a perfect symbol of why this team hasn’t won a World Series yet.
And at some level, its sucks that the Mets seem to get these guys on a regular basis (okay, more like once a decade). They had Seaver (and Nolan Ryan, but Ryan didn’t fully blossom until California). They had Doc Gooden. And right now they Harvey, with DeGrom and Syndegaard doing a great 1-2-3 act. Can you imagine having even 2 shut down arms? The Rox hope that might be the case. Jon Gray was nearly as dominating the night before, giving up the 1 hit over 6 (a homer granted) to the 4 given up by Harvey over 8. The Rox actually have some interesting pitching pieces. Could a rotation of Gray, Freeland, Hoffman, Anderson and Butler provide the best rotation in Rox history in 2017 or 2018? Well, its worth staying a Rockies fan the next few years to find out.
But that is the future. Last night Harvey was the present. After his Tommy John surgery there were a lot of people wondering about Harvey (and Jose Fernandez in Miami, two pitchers very similar right down to the matching TJ surgeries). He missed all of 2014, but in just 58 career starts the kid has a 2.47 ERA, won 23 games (and the Mets were awful in 2012 and 2013), has a career WHIP of just .99 (less than a runner an inning, that is truly awesome) and 396 Ks in 385.2 innings (and 88 BB and 4 HBP). I think you can argue he is the best right handed pitcher in the National League, though Matt Sherzer has something to say about that. It should also be pointed out, the Mets play in a park that is very skewed to pitchers (something Nationals Park is not). But still…Harvey is a great young talent. He is just 26 on top of everything else, picked 7th overall in 2010. I mention this because in 2014 the Rox got the #8 and #9 overall picks in Freeland and Hoffman. There is no reason those two cannot become serious major league studs. But draft status means very little. Performance does.
And last night…the Rox were basically outmatched. On Sunday they put 3 homers on the board to help beat Matt Scherzer. If you’re the Rox you go into last night thinking, “if he makes a mistake or two, we jump on them, we have a chance.” That is how you have to think about it when facing a guy like Harvey who after a slump involving a lot of walks after the All-Star Break, has regained his form. Unfortunately….it didn’t happen. They got one double and 3 singles off Harvey. Paulsen had the double, with DJ, Nolan, and Kyle Parker adding in the singles. They got 0 walks. On the good side…they only struck out 4 times.
In the 2nd DJ got a single with 2 outs and stolen base to move DJ into scoring position. But Hundley flew out to left to end that “rally.” They got an infield single in the 4th on a shot into the hole that the Mets SS Ruben Tejada fielded but threw to wide to keep Daniel Murphy on the bag (the play was originally called an out but overturned). But Ben Paulsen lined out to left to leave him stranded. If Paulsen had gotten his double then??? That is the hard thing about baseball. It matters when you get your hits, not just that you get them at all. In the 5th they got another infield hit from Parker on a slow roller to Juan Uribe (he’s only 36 but it feels like a million years ago he played with the Rox…wonder if they regret trading him), but hitting Chris Russin (I know, it doesn’t ryhme like Hard Hitting Marc Whitten) grounded out to 2nd. In the 6th Reyes flied out to former Rox Michael Cuddyer who showed why he was so roundly considered a bad defensive outfielder with the Rox. Yes he made the catch but really…it shouldn’t have required a dive. Love Cuddy but…wow his D is bad. And, thank you Mets for giving his a free agent deal allowing us to get Mike Nikorak. I hope he goes on to prove that the most costly decision the Mets made since their ownership went all in with Bernie Maddoff.
The 7th saw Paulsen line a ball to right for a double. But for some reason Paulsen didn’t read the ball of DJ’s bat and was part of a double play. Look, he was being aggressive. The Rox are perhaps the worst base running team in baseball, in large part because of the agressiveness. But on a night where they needed a run, I get that Paulsen was thinking scoring from 2nd on a single. He just sort of forgot the idea of the 2nd baseman having a glove. And that was all she wrote against Mat Harvey. They had chances. Both in the 2nd and 7th. But Harvey never allowed 2 hits to be strung together and when you don’t walk anyone…that is how you throw a shutout. I was a bit surprised he wasn’t allowed the 9th inning to go for the complete game, but he has only 1 in his career and in his first year back from TJ surgery and at 97 pitches…I guess he wasn’t going to get the chance to finish what he started.
Eric O’Flaherty came in for the 9th in what was now a 4-0 game. It tells you how weak the opponent thinks your offense is when they send out a guy with an ERA nearly 7. He got Blackmon to ground out softly, gave up a double on a line to center to Reyes, but CarGo rolled over to 2nd and Nolen flied out to left to end the game. The Rox total…5 hits, 0 runs. Ouch!
In the pre-game yesterday I pointed out the importance of games like these for the Rox 2016 club because they are going to need 5 starters (actually, 8 or 9) to be competitive next year (I know no one really thinks the Rox are going to be good in 2016 but this is baseball, the game isn’t linear, so the Rox could be a surprise in 2016 if guys like Eddie Butler figure it out and Jordan Lyles can avoid getting bizarre injuries…so, I will keep saying 2016 until they prove next year they are lousy). And a guy like Chris Russin is one of those key components. If he can be a solid #5 starter in 2016, if he gives the team a chance to win 8 out of every 10 starts (basically what he has been this year) then the Rox would have one of their better back of the rotation arms in team history. So Russin is pitching now for 2016 and to keep improving. And last night…he as pretty darn good.
In 6 innings he gave up 8 hits and only one intentional walk. And he out Kd Mr. Harvey 5 to 4. He got 4 ground ball outs and 4 fly ball outs. He allowed only 2 extra base hits, doubles to Lagares and Flores. And he matched Harvey through 5 innings. It wasn’t until Russin’s final inning that the Mets finally broke through. After striking out Uribe he gave up a single to Cuddyer (fresh of the DL…showing that like his defense his injury issues haven’t changed since leaving Colorado), got Flores to line out to center, but then allowed a single to d’Arnaud to make in 2nd and 1st with 2 outs. Needing to get out of the inning gave up a single through the right side of the infield (on the replay it looks like DJ was shaded way to much up the middle) and the ball was hit slow enough to make it a rushed throw by CarGo who threw up the line. Cuddy scored and with Harvey throwing like he did…the gave was over. Russin did get Harvey to strike out to get out of the inning but, it was too little to late.
Russin threw 96 pitches to get through his 6 innings, vs the 97 for Harvey to get through his 8. The Rox need a little more efficiency from Russin going forward, but when you get a quality start and were about 2 feet from leaving the game tied 0-0, its hard to complain too much. I think we can officially chalk this up as another outstanding start for Russin who has been the Rox 2nd best starter this season after De La Rosa.
Then it was up to the bullpen. Betencourt had a 1-2-3 inning, but in the 8th John Axford came on and had another of “those” outings. He gave up 1 hit…and 2 walks. All three runners. The inning started with an out of Uribe but then a single to Cuddy (again) and then…a stinking SB by Cuddy (with his bad knee and all!). Didn’t matter because d’Arnaud walked to put men at 2nd and 1st. Then Tejada walked. The Boone Logan came in….
Boone Logan in 2013 was a good pitcher. He really was. The Yanks hated to lose him (not as much as they regret having lost Tommy Kahnle). But right now he is in such a bad funk its hard to explain to people he used to be good. He has one more year left on his contract, and I am betting he is put through waivers and traded this month to someone who figured that getting him out of Colorado might restore his confidence. Yes, they have to pay him $4million+ but, if he regains his 2013 form, its not a bad trade. We shall see. I think at this point the Rox wouldn’t mind eating some of the deal to get him a chance somewhere else. At this point I would prefer to see Rex Brothers struggle here than Logan, since Rex still has a chance to be valuable to the Rox in the future. Anyways, Logan came in and promptly walked Curtis Granderson (sort of like hitting him the night before to tie the game) then gave up a double to deep left over Parker’s head (Parker isn’t a particularly good outfielder…then again neither is Corey Dickerson). Logan’s cutter didn’t get in far enough (Logan might be at this point someone who should be a left-handed only guy), and the double played 2 more runs. The inning ended mercifully when the next batter hit the ball right off of his runner’s foot. Didn’t matter. 4-0 was deep enough of a hole.
So, what to take from last night’s game?
- Matt Harvey is indeed as good as advertised.
- Chris Russin is having a really solid season and likely is going to be part of the rotation at the beginning of Spring Training in 2016.
- John Axford and Boone Logan simply are not very good right now.
- The Rox need to spend all of next year’s Spring Training working on base running.
- Ben Paulsen might be the best surprise of the whole season.
- The Rox will only become a decent offensive team in this new era (post-Tulo) if they can learn to string hits together…or at least get a walk.
- The Mets for a 1st place team are not impressive…but their starting pitching is.
A win today and at least it’s a 3-3 road trip against two very tough teams on the longest road trip of the season in terms of mileage.