Young Harvey already influencing Mets' resolve
'Terrific' right-hander drawing early comparison to Hall of Famer Seaver
NEW YORK -- Thirty minutes before Jordany Valdespin created a grand finale for the Mets on Wednesday night, he produced the third out of the eighth inning, a weak ground ball down the first-base line easily handled by the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, although it narrowly missed the first-base bag. Valdespin had left the tying run on third base.
Had the base altered the course of the ball and the Mets scored, those of us who believe in the powers of the unseen hand that often changes the course of human events might have identified the play as evidence that the 2013 Mets are a team favored by fate, that they may rise above their talent level and be more than an annoyance for the more gifted teams in the National League East.
Instead, the Mets loaded the bases in the 10th, and Valdespin's attempted sacrifice fly landed in the right-field seats, producing a grand slam and a 7-3 Mets victory. That was evidence of something else -- resolve.
The Mets had demonstrated some in the ninth inning, when David Wright singled home their third run following a pinch-hit, leadoff double by Mike Baxter and a neatly executed sacrifice bunt by Ruben Tejada.
A bunt and a bomb. Oh, how managers appreciate the ability to play small ball and long ball in the same hour! Diversity of offense.
And how Matt Harvey appreciated sidestepping what might have been his first loss. He wasn't the winning pitcher Wednesday night, but he certainly performed as a winning pitcher. Allowing three runs in six innings qualifies as a quality start, even though it shouldn't. Yet his QS performance was consistent with the premise of the statistic. It was "quality" in this regard: Harvey kept his team in the game.
Harvey's colleagues reciprocated by keeping his record clean. He's going to lose one of these weeks. But that zero to the right of the hyphen is a nice touch while it lasts.
Comparing players is an uncomfortable exercise for managers and other players, even if the comparisons are favorable. For now, though, comparing Harvey to more accomplished pitchers seems to make a valid point: he's special. At least he has been in most of his 15 big league starts.
Harvey's on-field demeanor, his seriousness and the way his co-workers respond to him -- all of that, and his successes, create an unmistakable parallel to Tom Seaver. That's quite unfair, too. But Harvey's cap has the same logo as the one Seaver wore, and like the erstwhile Franchise, Harvey is a strongly built, no-nonsense right-handed strikeout pitcher.
Dwight Gooden fits parts of that description, too. But Gooden came by his power pitching via whip-like arm action different from Seaver's and Harvey's.
Moreover, the good Doctor came to a team that already was on the ascent. Keith Hernandez was in place and clearly the soul of the team in 1984 when Gooden arrived. Darryl Strawberry was the kind of presence that the current Mets don't have. Rusty Staub, Hubie Brooks, Mookie Wilson and George Foster were established big league players.
The current Mets team is about -- in order -- Wright, Harvey, Jon Niese and, once he climbs from the abyss, Ike Davis. Aside from Wright, none of them is quite so established.
The dynamic is different from what it was in 1984, and quite similar to what existed when Seaver first smudged the right knee of his uniform in 1967.
At first Wednesday, the Mets were trying to win for Harvey, later they were trying to avoid a debit that would have shown on his personal account. In the late 1960s and deep into the '70s, the Mets were at their best and most alert when Seaver pitched. He commanded that, and when the response wasn't what he wanted, he demanded it. In that regard, he was an on-field extension of Gil Hodges, the manager Seaver still worships.
Harvey hasn't reached that point yet, of course. He makes demands only on himself, and he'll leave the pointed on-field and clubhouse chats to Captain Wright, who knows when to speak his mind and what words are effective for which players. But Harvey already has sway.
Whether Seaver ever delivered this exact message directly to a teammate doesn't matter. But his shortstop, Buddy Harrelson, once described how Seaver wanted his teammates to approach his starts.
"I'm out there every fifth day. Don't screw up my day," he said. "And when [Jerry Koosman] or [Gary] Gentry or whoever else is out there, don't screw up his day either."
Seaver's attitude was akin to that of Hank Bauer, who once addressed -- or undressed -- his young Yankees teammate Norm Seibern: "Hey kid, don't mess with my World Series money." (His choice of predicate was different.)
The sense is that Harvey has the same "I'm absolutely not here to lose" thought every fifth day.
And four innings after he had been removed Wednesday night, that very thought might still have resonated with the Mets.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.