Matt Harvey’s emergence as perhaps the best pitcher in Major League Baseball took another leap forward Tuesday night during the Mets’ victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The Mets’ young ace was perfect through 6 2-3 innings, retiring the first 20 White Sox batters he faced, before right fielder Alex Rios legged out an infield single with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Rios’ hit slowly rolled between shortstop Ruben Tejada and third baseman David Wright. Tejada took a few quick steps to his right, gloved the ball on the edge of the infield dirt and delivered a Derek Jeter-like jump throw to first baseman Ike Davis, but Rios beat the throw by an eyelash.
Harvey is the first Mets pitcher to toss at least 6 2-3 innings without allowing a base runner since Rick Reed went the same distance against the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 8, 1998. For Harvey, the biggest problem he faced Tuesday night wasn’t the White Sox lineup. Instead, it was a profuse nosebleed that he spent the early part of the game dealing with.
While Harvey lost his bid for the first perfect game in franchise history, the growing legend of the Mets’ 24-year-old right-hander gained another chapter.
In nine innings, Harvey allowed that one hit while striking out 12 to lower his ERA to a Major League-best 1.28. However, he did not figure into the decision because the Mets failed to score, but they did improve to 6-1 when he toes the rubber. Harvey became the first pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to strikeout at least 12 batters, allow no walks and only one hit in nine innings and earn a no decision, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Mets eventually won, 1-0, before a crowd of 23,394 at Citi Field when pinch-hitter Mike Baxter laced a single to right field off right-handed reliever Nate Jones in the bottom of the 10th inning to score Ike Davis from second base. Still, the spotlight was on Harvey, as it seems to be the case every time he takes the mound this year.
For a franchise that did not have a no-hitter in its first 51 seasons, until southpaw Johan Santana accomplished the feat against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1 last season, Harvey is a legitimate candidate to add his name to that list with almost every outing he makes.
In fact, Tuesday was Harvey’s second flirtation with a no-hitter this season. If you remember, against the Minnesota Twins on April 13 at Target Field, he held the Twins hitless for 6 2-3 innings before slugger Justin Morneau broke up his no-hit and shutout bid with a solo home run off the right field foul pole.
This much is evident, 17 starts into his big league career, the future is now for Harvey. He’s the only pitcher in the last 100 years with at least 125 strikeouts and 25 or fewer earned runs allowed in his first 17 career starts, according to Elias.
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.