I’ve got to be honest here, and right off the bat it seems strange, seeing as we’re in the midst of a six-game win streak and two consecutive series sweeps, but I still can’t quite get used to how good this team is.
When Matt Harvey gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, and then a hard and rather humiliating line drive to the second, I thought we were done. I just didn’t think it was the kind of game that we could come back and win, especially seeing as we’d already won five in a row.
I’m glad to be proven wrong whenever the proof involved a Mets victory, but to be so systematically, conclusively proven wrong in my brief assessment that the Mets weren’t as good as I’d thought they were is the nicest proof of all.
And what better day to be proven wrong then Harvey Day?
The Dark Knight is working his way back — successfully so, as we saw tonight. Harvey came out throwing 96 and 97, and after the home run to the first batter he faced, allowed only one other run, on a soft line drive that somehow got over Lucas Duda’s head, despite barely leaving the infield grass. He pitched into trouble multiple times, and all but the one, pitched out of it as well.
It’s hard to tell exactly where Harvey is. He still looks a little bit off; then again, not even the best pitchers have their best stuff every time out. At the pace he’s been improving, he’ll be at his best in another start or two, augmenting Matz, deGrom, and Thor, all at their best, and Familia, who yesterday looked his best as well.
And the best part is, we’re good enough to win even when our guys are far below their best. So a four game stretch of the best we have to offer is downright scary.
Watching Harvey strike out the last man he faced, I couldn’t help it; I pumped my fist and yelled out loud, and then got up to make sure none of my neighbors were offended by profanity. They weren’t. I like to think they were as enraptured by Harvey’s resurgent performance as I was: more likely, they didn’t care much either way. But that didn’t change the simple facts of the game, and the strikeout: Harvey was, and is, charging back, and the early-season difficulties that plagued him in the opening weeks of the season are now almost invisible, if not gone completely.
On the offensive side, it was a relatively mundane night; in fact, we had only five hits. But we put the runs on the board, just like we’ve been doing and will continue to do. Two unearned in the first on a dropped fly ball and an RBI single (a Royals-type “relentless contact” narrative briefly threatened to sneak into my head, but I beat it back). Another run several innings later, on Neil Walker’s 48th home run, in spirit if not by any numerical reality.
My description of the offense as “relatively mundane” does not, of course, account for Walker, who, almost as if he’s having Daniel Murphy’s daily exploits shoved in his face just like the rest of the Mets online community, has made us forget about Murph real fast. Well, perhaps not forget, as it’s hard to replace what Murph did — more accurately, we’ve moved on. It’s hard not to, when you’ve got a second baseman who bats .300 with nine home runs in his first month; stretches like that tend to make you forget the guy who used to be there.
And then, of course, Michael Conforto, of whom any praise will sound like mere echoes of Keith Hernandez’s voice from the SNY booth, but bears repeating anyway. Mike can hit — that much shouldn’t even need be said. It’s the way he hits it that makes it that much better. Without a hit on the day, Conforto came to the plate with two on and two out, and lined a pitch off the outside corner into left field and up the gap. I’ve seen his swing enough, at this point, to put aside my reservations that he would regress, or hit a sophomore slump, or not play well in any way. I won’t hold back on Conforto at the plate: his swing is melodious, mellifluous, harmonic and resonant, frictionless and rhythmic, a picture of offensive perfection embodied.
Will he keep it up? Will he continue batting .330, or whatever he’s at? It’s not a rhetorical question, though it may seem to be. At this point, the answer may well be yes.
In the later stages of today’s game, we came to the bullpen, diminished after multiple nights of work. “The bridge to Familia,” it was called during the offseason, usually in some negative context, as in, “The one area that needs work is that bridge from the starters to Familia.”
Well our bridge people can be shown to the door, because the middle of the bridge, not to mention both anchors, which were taken as sure things, has been substantially more than fine. We came into the day with a 2.67 bullpen E.R.A. — and it only went down. Robles. Henderson. Reed. Bastardo. Blevins, Verrett, and finally, of course, Familia.
They all look fine. Better; great. Commanding, controlling, taking over the game. We got nine straight outs from the bullpen tonight without using Familia, and without going to either lefty specialist. Just three guys. 7th, 8th, 9th. 1-2-3, three times. Bullpen simplicity at its best.
And now we’ve got an off day, and then we go up against the Giants, who, quite frankly, are playing as if they haven’t realized it’s an even year. They’re okay; we’re better. We’ve got a strong chance at a series win, and a decent one at another sweep.
And you know why? Because on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we’ve got three aces going. It seemed like we just had our aces going the other day, or week — because we did, and now it’s their turn again.
Don’t you love this team?