Mets, Harvey Win in the Bronx

On Saturday Matt Harvey (4-0) came as close to having all four of his pitches working as we’ve seen all season. With the ability to hit 98 mph on a fastball with movement (Harvey struck out both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner looking in the sixth on fastballs that ran back toward the plate to catch the inside black) and a changeup sitting around 88 with more left-to-right movement and downward bite (Alex Rodriguez struck out in the first off one particular nasty change) Harvey tossed 8 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He also came within one Mark Texeira homerun in the seventh from adding to his historical run of allowing one run or fewer in 20 of his first 39 starts (would have been 21 of 40), but Harvey settled for allowing two earned runs.

#HarveyDay – when two earned runs is settling.

In the middle innings Harvey began working his curveball more, and though it wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in earlier contests (notably that first inning against the Phillies when Odubel Herrera simply flailed helplessly at one to strikeout) it kept the Yankees from sitting on his fastball, a pitch they feasted upon Friday night with Jacob deGrom. Harvey’s slider was okay, missing mostly though he struck out Stephen Drew in the fifth on a nice one, and it does make you wonder how excited we’ll all be when Harvey gets the feel and command back of a pitch batters hit a lowly .199 against back in 2013.

What’s interesting to note is that in 2015 batters are swinging and missing on his slider only 10.53% of the time, down significantly from 2013 when it was 17.66%. It’s early (I have that phrase set with a hotkey by the way), and it will certainly take time (considering it), but I point these things out as I work through my fan anxiety.

The early lead helped. Up 5-1 by the fourth, Harvey could begin starting the Yankees batters with breaking balls and work through his pitches. Also, if you’re worried about Harvey allowing hits to the opposing team’s pitchers (like in his last start against the Marlins Tom Koehler) or against Didi Gregorius, the Yankees equivalent, don’t be. Questionable Daniel Murphy defense led to Gregorius being rewarded with a bunt single in the second. Murphy made a nice flip to second to turn a double play, and Drew would have scored regardless, but Murphy is doing some odd things in the field lately.

Sign of concern? Let’s hope all the talk of Dilson Herrera and the surplus of young talent doesn’t undermine the start of a great year.1

Scoring runs with two outs was critical in this game. The Mets scored their first five runs of the game with two outs, including Lucas Duda’s second homerun of the season in the first inning and Kevin Plawecki’s first big league homerun in the fourth. According to the Fox Sports crew, it was the first time in Subway Series history when a player hit his first Major League homer during one of the games.

The Mets as a team hit three homeruns during the game. Eric Campbell hit his first on the year in the sixth. It was the first time this season the Mets have hit three homers in a game—of late, if the team hit three homeruns in a week I’d consider it a display of unimaginable power—and it was the most since last September 5th when they clubbed five homers against the Cincinnati Reds played at Great American Ballpark. Of course, Texeira has as many homeruns in the series as the Mets as a team, but at this point I’ll take what I can get. The three homeruns moved the Mets from tied 28th in the Majors in team homers to 20th (tied with the Royals).

Eventually, Michael Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy are going to start hitting. Cuddyer, historically, has not been one to strike out 25% of the time. For the season he’s struck out in 25.4% of his at-bats. Over his career that number has averaged 17.9% with Cuddyer not being anywhere close to 20% since 2006 with the Twins. He’s 36, so if that number hovered closer to 20 it wouldn’t surprise me. Still. Suddenly this guy morphed into Ian Desmond but without the upside of power. Cuddyer did hit a nice line drive up the middle for a single in the fourth, so maybe he’s starting to come around. I’ll conveniently ignore his next two at-bats where he struck out and grounded to short.

How about Juan Lagares? On the day he went 4-for-4 with a triple, a RBI, and three runs scored. In the sixth he was his own offense as he singled, went to second on a wild pitch, went to third on a pop-fly to Stephen Drew down the right field line, and then scored on another wild pitch by Yankees reliever Esmil Rogers. Coming into the season two of my biggest concerns for this team were the possibility that last season were career years, offensively, for Duda and Lagares. In 2014, Lagares’ strikeout rate dropped below his career average (down to 19.2% from 21%), he’d hit a healthy .341 on balls in play, and he rarely walked (4.4%). Well, in 2015 he’s striking out more (21.6%), walking less (2.7%), and hitting .375 on balls in play. Needless to say, I’m still concerned that his .296/.311/.338 slash line is sustainable without an ability to stop chasing breaking balls in the dirt.

He’s so fun to watch, though, that I ignore a lot of that. Is he right for the second spot in the batting order? Eh. I’d like to see Terry Collins move Plawecki up to the second spot until Wright returns to take advantage of his ability to make contact without striking out a lot, but Lagares has so far had a knack for the dramatic, so another week or so batting second won’t hurt anything.

Notes: Just in case you were wondering (I know I was), yesterday was the first time the Mets have hit three home runs and hit at least one triple since August 24, 2014 in an 11-3 win against the Dodgers. In the history of the franchise, they’ve done that 79 times and they are 68-11 in those games. Is that important? No. I thought it might be sort of uncommon, which it is, and it usually results in good things happening.

  1. This has to be a future blog topic, so I’ll stop right now.

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