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June 15, 2017

What You Need to Know

Harvey Day

by Ben Diamond


The Wednesday Takeaway

As our good friend Stefan from SNL would say, New York’s hottest club is Citi Field. This place has everything: leadoff home runs, monster dingers, devastated Mets fans, injuries, even more devastated Mets fans, milestones, great catches, inspirational comebacks, and ... even cautiously optimistic Mets fans? Grab your popcorn, take a seat, and enjoy the wild rollercoaster of yesterday’s game of the day.

While Harvey Day used to be cause for celebration in Flushing, with fans flocking to the ballpark to watch their young ace toy with helpless batters, it’s certainly lost its luster after five up-and-down years full of trips to the disabled list and controversies. Still, there exists an allure around Matt Harvey; if you squint just a bit, you can see a supremely talented pitcher who may just have enough in that surgically repaired arm to do something special. Maybe, just maybe, today would be the day he—NOPE:

Okay, well, rough start. One pitch into the game and the Mets are already down 1-0. It’s fine, he can still bounce back. The game isn’t lost just ye—

Aw, crap. That’s not promising. Two batters, two home runs. But wait! The second inning was good! A 1-2-3 frame with two strikeouts. And so was the third inning! Another perfect frame with another strikeout. Phew, okay, things weren’t looking good but Harvey’s rolling now, it’s going to be—

Oh dear god, nevermind. Yeah, Harvey’s day is done. Kyle Schwarber just hit that ball 467 feet, well over Shea Bridge and into a spot that wasn’t even reached in 2013’s Home Run Derby. There are home runs, and then there’s this moonshot that effectively ended Harvey’s start just four innings in.

And if you thought things were bad for the Mets, I should probably mention what happened half an inning earlier, when Neil Walker appeared to pull his hamstring while trying to beat out a bunt. Walker’s been one of the best players on the Mets this season, and any extended absence would be dearly missed. While New York does have an excellent in-house option with top prospect Amed Rosario, they seem intent on keeping him at Triple-A for a bit longer and are more likely to simply shuffle around their infield for now.

Don’t worry, though, this isn’t a Shakespearean-style tragedy. Not every Mets player will end up on the disabled list by the time the night is done, even though it may feel like we’re on that path. Things quickly got better for the Mets a half-inning after Schwarber’s blast: starting pitcher Steven Matz came in to pinch-hit with the bases loaded (because of course he did), and drove in a run on an infield single (because of course he did). Later in the inning, Juan Lagares brought home Curtis Granderson with a sac fly to bring the lead to one.

Just a couple frames later, Lagares stepped up to the plate again and delivered a game-tying RBI triple.

Somehow, despite literally the worst start to a game possible, the Mets had battled back and made it a new game. The score held steady for another full inning, and then, with the normally dominant Carl Edwards Jr. on the mound, Granderson reached down and turned an 81 mph curveball into a 100 mph missile bound for the right field seats to put the Mets ahead by one.

The timely home run also happened to be a significant one for Granderson, as it was his 300th in an impressive 14-year career, making him just two stolen bases shy of being the 35th member of the 300 home run/150 steal club.

The Mets didn’t take their foot off the gas following Grandy’s go-ahead shot, though, as Lucas Duda came up four batters later and hit a three-run homer to extend the lead to 8-4.

T.J. Rivera would later hit an RBI single, making it 9-4, and Addison Reed nailed down the save to give the Mets a thrilling win.

Quick Hits

If the Mets’ win over the Cubs was a deliberate, two-punch fight between a pair of heavyweights, the Rays and Blue Jays duked it out with a barrage of jabs over nine innings of lead changes. The Rays came out of the gates swinging and held a 3-1 lead through four innings, but the Blue Jays began chipping away in the fifth frame with an RBI single by Jose Bautista, who was driven in two batters later by a monstrous bomb from Kendrys Morales.

Somehow only the third-longest dinger of the night, Morales’s three-run home run traveled 465 feet and put the Jays on top. As they say, though, leads are meant to be broken (I don’t think they actually say that), and Toronto’s 6-3 edge soon evaporated on Joe Smith’s watch.

Quick, before I go any further, try to guess who has the second-most homers in baseball. If you don’t know the answer—and it’s a doozy—I’ll give you a very, very subtle hint:

Yup, that’s Logan Morrison, who now has 19 homers on the year, his highest total since reaching 23 homers in 2011. Morison isn’t exactly making a ton of contact, as his .238 batting average will tell you, but he’s getting on base at a .344 clip and the power output has been extremely impressive. Previously seen as a first basemen with middling power, LoMo is suddenly a slugger. Apparently pulling half of the balls you hit and swinging out of your shoes with little regard for safety (or batting average) works every now and then.

Anyway, back to the game. Derek Noris would bring in Steven Souza Jr. with a sac fly and, after a two-run comeback from the Blue Jays, the Rays managed to tie the game with a three-run retort of their own. The Rays didn’t get much time to celebrate the hard-fought tie game, though, because Russell Martin delivered a clutch winning dinger for the Blue Jays just a half-inning later:

***

Jordan Zimmermann embodied a couple of baseball clichés on Wednesday night, and not in a good way. “If you’re going to score off a (good) pitcher, get him early” may not be the most accurate of idioms, but it certainly held true for the Diamondbacks against Zimmermann. He struggled in the first inning, allowing a trio of singles and a double to leave the Tigers in a two-run hole, but was nearly untouchable for the rest of the night. Following the opening frame hiccup, Zimmermann threw seven scoreless innings, ceding just two base runners and striking out five.

Alas, another infamous saying came into play because of Zimmermann’s struggles in the first frame: the “tough-luck loss.” While the Tigers’ hurler was good, Taijuan Walker and Arizona’s bullpen proved better. Walker tossed five innings of one-run ball, striking out six, and Randall Delgado chipped in three shutout frames before Fernando Rodney notched the save by striking out the side. As a result, poor ol’ Zimmermann took the complete-game loss, with the Tigers falling 2-1 to the Diamondbacks.

***

Did ... did the Dodgers break Andrew Miller? The Cleveland fireman had been dynamite to start this season, allowing just one run (one run!) through 31 1/3 frames while striking out 47, but gave up his very first round-tripper of the season on Tuesday to Cody Bellinger, taking the loss. Toeing the rubber in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game, Miller looked to keep the game tied at 2-2. Alas, he failed. Again.

By the end of Miller’s appearance, four runs had crossed the plate and his ERA had risen from 0.55 to a simply unacceptable 1.60, as he lost his second game in as many days.

The ugly inning by Miller erased an excellent start by Corey Kluber, who went seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits, a walk, and 10 strikeouts. Kluber also recorded the 1,000th strikeout of his career—impressively, he’s the fastest Indian ever to reach that milestone, beating out Bob Feller by 19 games. Kluber may have had fans worried after hitting the DL in May with a 5.06 ERA to his name, but he’s allowed just five runs in 19 innings (2.37 ERA) since being activated from the DL and is looking as good as ever.

***

On any normal night, this would deserve the defensive play of the day title, but, woof, just keep on reading to see what catch won that spot. Still, Ben Gamel’s incredible catch against the Twins is a must-see grab, as he flew into the wall in violent fashion to snag this foul ball. If you ask me, though, I think this play was just a ploy to show the world his other-worldly hair.

***

If you weren’t aware, I just wanted to drop by a remind you that the Astros have a pretty good offense. No, seriously. In fact, they did this fun little thing against the Rangers on Wednesday in which they scored, uh, nine runs in an inning amid a 13-2 blowout.

The nightmarish inning (for the Rangers) got started when top prospect Derek Fisher, who was called up earlier in the day, notched his first career hit in the loudest way possible—with a deep, opposite field home run:

Next up was Jake Marisnick, who went back-to-back with Fisher with a solo shot of his own. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but what followed was (take a deep breath with me here) a single, a hit by pitch, two walks (one to score a run), a pair of singles (to score three), a double play, an RBI single (by Fisher, for the second hit of his career and of the inning), another hit by pitch, and a George Springer double to score two.

Houston annihilated the Rangers at the plate, but they weren’t too shabby on the mound either. Recent call-up Frances Martes showcased the dominant stuff which made him one of the top pitching prospects in the game, recording seven strikeouts and allowing just one run (on three hits and two walks) over five innings.

Martes was largely a two-pitch pitcher on Wednesday, throwing his four-seam fastball 47 times, the curveball 38 times, and the changeup just thrice. Still, it was more than enough to keep the Rangers guessing. Living in the mid-90s with a dominant heater, Martes’ most impressive pitch was undoubtedly the curve, which netted nine swinging strikes on the evening.

Martes may have to throw all three of his pitches if he wants to succeed as a starter long term, but he’s got all the makings of a top-flight arm and showed off some of that upside against the Rangers.

Defensive Play of the Day

As much as I loved Gamel’s catch, let’s play a quick game of hypotheticals. If Gamel doesn’t pull off the catch, it’s a foul ball, and the at-bat continues with the hitter down a strike. If Aaron Hicks doesn’t make the following catch, the Angels score four runs and tie the game up with a grand slam from Luis Valbuena. Luckily for the Yankees, Hicks did make the catch, robbing Valbuena of a home run with a spectacular play.

What to Watch Thursday

Thursday’s slate of games will start with the Dodgers facing the Indians a 12:10 pm ET—Rich Hill (3.77 ERA) will toe the rubber against Josh Tomlin (5.73 ERA), and Andrew Miller will presumably be kept far, far away from the mound. An hour later, the Mariners and Twins will face off, handing the ball to Ariel Miranda (3.67 ERA) and Jose Berrios (2.84 ERA), respectively. When he’s on, Berrios provides must-watch television with his curveball from hell and impressive fastball.

Later, the Red Sox will look to Chris Sale (2.97 ERA) to strikeout all the Phillies at 7:05 pm, and electric rookie Jeff Hoffman could also rack up whiffs in Coors against the Giants at 8:40 pm. Struggling aces Justin Verlander (4.68 ERA) and Sonny Gray (4.37 ERA) will get starts, and it’ll be worth watching to see if they can begin to turn their seasons around.

Ben Diamond is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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