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Harvey's 11-K debut slams door on Mets' skid

Harvey's 11-K debut slams door on Mets' skid

PHOENIX -- Not much could have boosted the Mets' spirits so close to the carnage of their dozen-game free fall since the All-Star break. Reeling and roiling, the Mets pinned their hopes on highly regarded pitching prospect Matt Harvey almost by default -- and not necessarily with complete confidence. Delaying his debut by nearly a week, some team officials warned not to expect too much from the pitcher who entered the season as's second-ranked Mets prospect, intimating that he might not be ready for the big leagues.

Turns out Harvey was ready.

Dazzling from the start, the former first-round Draft pick struck out 11 batters, a franchise record for a Major League debut, blanking the D-backs over 5 1/3 innings Thursday and leading the Mets to a 3-1 victory at Chase Field. In front of more than a dozen friends and family members who flew from Connecticut, North Carolina and other points east, Harvey also rapped out two hits in one of the sport's more dominant debuts in recent memory.

"He has the ability and the stuff to sit down lineups," catcher Rob Johnson said. "When he throws strikes, he does stuff like that."

Throwing more than 68 percent fastballs, Harvey struck out the first batter of his career, three of the first five and eight of the first 14. He put two runners on base with one out in the third, but fanned Jason Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt -- Arizona's third and fourth hitters -- on 97-mph fastballs to end the threat. Along the way, Harvey allowed precious few well-struck balls and just three hits, one of them a squibber down the third-base line by Kubel.

"When you're facing a guy who's making his Major League debut, you're kind of licking your chops a little bit," Kubel said. "But that wasn't the case today. [We hoped] he would be a little amped and miss his spots and leave some balls out over the plate, but he just didn't do that."

His only flaw was his inefficiency. Striking out 11 and walking three strained Harvey's pitch count, forcing him to throw 106 over 5 1/3 innings. With manager Terry Collins scheming to remove him from the game on a positive note, Harvey left after walking two of the first three batters in the sixth. Fellow rookie Josh Edgin doused that fire, inducing a popup and a groundout to preserve Harvey's scoreless debut.

All the offense Harvey would need came in the first inning, when Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy led off the game with consecutive singles against Wade Miley and scored on Scott Hairston's two-run double. Activated Thursday in large part because of his familiarity with Harvey, Johnson added a sacrifice fly against Miley in the fourth.

Miley gave up three of his nine hits to Hairston and another two to Harvey, who doubled in the second inning and singled in the fourth. That made Harvey the first player since 1900 to strike out at least 10 batters and record at least two hits in his first Major League game. His 11 whiffs rank eighth all-time in a debut.

"Electric stuff for sure," said Collins, nitpicking only that he would like to see Harvey throw his changeup more often. "I haven't seen 98 out of a starting pitcher in quite some time. He's lived up to exactly what everybody's talked about."

"I was able to control it," Harvey said of his fastball. "I was pretty surprised with that, actually."

Selected seventh overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, the final significant stamp of Omar Minaya's tenure as general manager, Harvey flew through the Minor Leagues. He did not linger at any level, striking out more than a batter per inning at every stop while impressing Mets scouts and officials with his off-field demeanor. They gushed and they raved, calling him the future.

But along the way, Harvey also displayed flaws. His fastball command, for example, has given some within the organization pause, prompting them to delay his debut. Needing a starter on Saturday against the Dodgers, the Mets -- unconvinced that Harvey was ready -- turned to 41-year-old journeyman Miguel Batista instead. The result was unkind.

So Harvey arrived earlier this week to much fanfare and significant expectations, even if his mound demeanor did not reveal those stakes. Warming up prior to the game, Harvey allowed himself a brief moment to look around and soak in the atmosphere.

"At that moment," Harvey said, "I really did believe that I was meant to pitch in the big leagues."

Within a half-hour of Bobby Parnell delivering the game's final pitch, 76 text messages had already buzzed across Harvey's phone.

He may not be the savior of this team -- at least not by himself -- but he had arrived.

"It's a big spark, especially when there are a lot of expectations coming in," Hairston said. "He handled it very well."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.
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