Harvey demonstrates different kind of domination
Mets ace swaps power pitching for efficiency in recording first career shutout
NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey traded his Doc Gooden impersonation for a Doc Halladay one on Wednesday night, and it suited him just fine. Harvey pounded the strike zone and let the Rockies get themselves out en route to the first complete game and first shutout of his already remarkable big league career.
He struck out six, and for the third time in four starts, didn't walk a batter. Harvey got 13 groundball outs, as opposed to three in the air. It wasn't typical Harvey, except for the scoreline.
Harvey's rip-snorting, dominant style of pitching usually garners comparisons to fireballers like Roger Clemens and Gooden, high-strikeout hurlers who relied on the swing-and-miss. On Wednesday, he echoed great pitchers of a different stripe: those who induce weak contact and get quick outs. Guys like Halladay, or maybe Greg Maddux.
Not better, not worse, just different. An aggressive, efficient Harvey certainly wasn't apologizing for a strikeout total that equaled his second lowest of the year. Instead, he was soaking up an accomplishment that he had wanted for quite a while.
"It's the way you want to go as a starter," he said. "Whether I struck out 10 or three or one, it's nine innings with a bunch of zeros. That's all that matters. I was happy with weak contact today."
Future shutouts -- and there will be more -- may have a different flavor, but this one was nice and tidy and just right.
It was, frankly, about the only way he was going to get a shutout at this point in his second season. The Mets are watching Harvey's workload closely, and he's not likely to get the chance to finish a game where his pitch count soars in the early innings.
This time, he finished with 106 pitches, and it could have been fewer. A comebacker struck him on the leg and bounced away for a two-out base hit in the ninth. Harvey collected himself and finished off the gem.
He wanted it, of course. But so did his manager.
"When he got out of the eighth inning and he's at  pitches, he deserved to go back out there," said skipper Terry Collins. "We can certainly, on another night, cut him short. Cut him an inning here and an inning there and we'll catch up to where we want to be as we get down the road. But you don't have many opportunities to pitch shutouts."
In the future, he'll likely get the chance to finish off games where he's less efficient. He has the body and the stuff of a front-of-the-rotation horse. For now, though, it took a change of pace to go all nine.
If there's one area where Harvey hasn't always excelled this year, it's efficiency, though that admittedly can be a difficult thing to measure. Harvey entered the game among the National League leaders in pitches thrown per inning this year, at 15.3 -- 13th best out of 45 qualifying pitchers. But when you frame it as pitches per plate appearance, he's third-highest.
That's a long way of saying that Harvey doesn't let a lot of guys reach base, but it takes him quite a few pitches to get the outs he gets.
Against the Rockies, he had no such issues. Harvey went with the old-fashioned "here it is, hit it" style of pitching, and it worked beautifully. Even when he was over the plate rather than the corners, Colorado did little with it.
"He has that gift that God gives you," said catcher John Buck, "to miss out over the plate and get really good hitters to miss. We've seen it all year long, and to go along with that he knows how to pitch."
He allowed a two-out single in the second and a two-out single in the fourth. In the eighth, Nolan Arenado barely beat out a grounder to shortstop, but Arenado was erased on a double play. Charlie Blackmon singled in the ninth, off Harvey's knee, for the only other baserunner.
And had Blackmon not taken second on defensive indifference, no Rockies player would have made it into scoring position all night. That's a different kind of dominance, but it's dominance just the same.
"When he had a chance to put away, he did that," Buck said. "And then when we had counts where he could produce a ground ball or take advantage of a guy being real aggressive, he did that."
In short, he did pretty much whatever he wanted to, even on a night where Collins admitted Harvey didn't have his very best stuff. He had enough, though. And he had his defense, and an announced crowd of 27,581 at his back.
They roared when he came out to bat in the seventh, and they urged him on to the finish in the ninth. Nobody wearing blue and orange was going home disappointed on this night.
"Twenty thousand people came to see him pitch," Collins said. "He deserved it. We're trying to create some excitement on this team, and one [part of that] is Matt Harvey. They came to see him, they were going to see him."
Matthew Leach is a national reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.