Byrd's homer starts big fifth to back dominant pitching
Special to MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Harvey has not pitched a no-hitter since high school -- not in college, not in the Minors and certainly not in his first 12 Major League starts. But he got the sense that something special was happening Saturday as the outs kept piling up.
"After the sixth inning, I sat down in the dugout and I realized it was a possibility," Harvey said of a no-hitter. "But I knew the seventh was going to be toughest inning for me."
He was right about that. Justin Morneau's solo homer broke up the no-hitter with two outs in the seventh, but Harvey did just about everything else right in a 4-2 win, the Mets' second straight against Minnesota, on a chilly afternoon at Target Field.
Harvey (3-0) was in cruise control before Morneau hit his first homer of the season, a 404-foot blast off the right-field foul pole on a 2-2 pitch, Harvey's 87th of the day. He ended up allowing two hits and walking two while fanning six in eight innings pitched -- the longest outing of his career -- but that one pitch to Morneau was still on his mind after the game.
"It was a slider in. It was a good pitch -- he just put a good swing on it," Harvey said. "I think we'd gone in there three or four times with the slider, and you know, looking back we probably should have gone with another changeup or a fastball, but I made a good pitch, and he put a good swing on it."
The Mets have now gotten three straight dominant outings from Harvey, whose ERA actually rose to 0.82 on Saturday. He had allowed just four hits and one earned run while striking out 19 in back-to-back seven-inning starts against the Padres and Phillies to start the season.
"Going into it, we knew he was throwing the ball really well," said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who had Minnesota's other hit off Harvey. "Our mentality was to attack early. I knew from facing him in the Minor Leagues he comes at you with his fastball, but he had all three pitches working today."
After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins praised Harvey for his composure, which Collins attributed in part to Harvey's getting his feet wet in 10 starts last year.
"[Harvey] knows he can compete here," Collins said. "He trusts his stuff. He knows if he makes pitches, he's going to get outs up here. I think that month and a half he spent here last year was a tremendous experience leading into this year. I think he pitches with great confidence up here, and he knows that he's got good enough stuff to get the best hitters in the game out."
Meanwhile, one day after posting two five-run innings and a four-run frame against the Twins, the Mets again put a crooked number on the board in the fifth to break up a scoreless tie. The rally featured seven consecutive hits, one shy of the team record and the first time seven straight Mets had hits since Aug. 1, 2001, in a game at Houston. Marlon Byrd started the outburst with a solo home run to deep left field, his first of the year, which gave the Mets a home run in every game so far this season. After he missed a homer to right-center by inches Friday night, Byrd knew he had broken through Saturday.
"I didn't even look at it," he said. "It was one of those you swing, you get it. If it went to right field it's a different story, but I hit it to the better part of the park."
Collin Cowgill drove in the second run on a swinging bunt down the third-base line, and Daniel Murphy and David Wright followed with solid singles.
Murphy's hit chased Twins starter Scott Diamond (0-1), who was making his 2013 debut after starting the season on the disabled list with elbow soreness. Diamond had effectively handcuffed the Mets through four innings, but he did not retire a batter in the fifth -- the only out he recorded came when Ike Davis was thrown out by Twins left fielder Josh Willingham when Davis tried to leg out a double after Byrd's home run.
But after the game, even the hitters just wanted to talk about Harvey, and how close he came to the second no-hitter in Mets history.
"You saw in the first couple innings he had no-hit stuff," Byrd said. "In the outfield you're just hoping anything that comes out there, you're going to go get. I was thinking if there was a ball hit to me on the ground, I was going to throw him out at first."