Matt Harvey made his much-anticipated debut Thursday on the road against Arizona. The Mets spotted him with two runs in the top of the first and Harvey had no intention of letting the D-backs back in. He struck out Gerardo Parra with a slider, down and in, to begin his major league career. Aaron Hill then followed with a fly out to center. Harvey conceded an infield single to Jason Kubel before getting Paul Goldschmidt looking on a fastball on the outside black to end the frame.
Harvey got two more D-backs swinging in the second and followed that up with three punch-outs in the third for a total of seven. After another three strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings, Harvey took the mound for the sixth. He went walk, strikeout, walk and Terry Collins emerged from the dugout to remove Harvey from the game in favor of Josh Edgin, who quickly got the final two outs to keep Harvey’s shutout intact.
In total, Harvey struck out 11 batters, conceded three walks, allowing a double and two singles—one of which was an infield hit—in 5.1 innings. His 11 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher in a major league debut since Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 against Pittsburgh in 2010. He even added two hits of his own at the plate. Perhaps the only knock on his performance was that his pitch total of 106 was far from economical.
Harvey relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 72 times. The pitch averaged 94.9 mph, touching 98, and garnered 13 swinging strikes. He used a slider as his primary off-speed pitch, riding it to another five swings and misses. He also mixed in a change-up and curveball sparsely, but on this night he was mostly a two-pitch man.
Harvey’s four-seam fastball PITCHf/x plot
He lived up in the zone and above the zone with his fastball, throwing 24 fastballs out of the strike zone high, according to PITCHf/x, while throwing just four below the strike zone, all barely missing low. Hitters couldn’t lay off those high mid-to-high 90s heaters, as Harvey used the pitch to complete eight of his 11 strikeouts, six of which were swinging, and five of which were at or above the batter’s belt.
And his sliders…
The slider was used on his other three punch-outs. He primarily used the pitch against lefties, throwing it 15 times (27.8 percent) against them, versus eight (15.4 percent) against righties, recording two of those strikeouts against lefty Gerardo Parra and one against Justin Upton. The location of the pitch was similar to both righties and lefties—down and away to righties and down and in to lefties.
At six and a half games out of the final Wild Card spot, the Mets aren’t likely to make a push for the playoffs this season. But, what Matt Harvey did last night should give Mets fans, and baseball fans in general, a reason to keep watching. His fastball was explosive; only three pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, David Price and Jeff Samardzija are averaging a higher velocity than what Harvey sat at on Thursday night. His slider was very good as well, and his overall performance was pretty special.
He won’t be this good every start, but he has the talent to put starts like this together from time to time. And for that reason, Harvey could become one of the game’s must-watch starting pitchers.