Box score of the day: The Dark Knight returns

April 9th, 2020

Think back to when was the Dark Knight of Gotham, and Harvey Day was a holiday for Mets fans. Five years ago today was one of the best of them.

The Mets' 2015 season ended with a wild run to the National League pennant and a roller-coaster loss to the Royals in the World Series -- when a dominant Harvey came within three outs of a shutout in Game 5 before things went awry. But at the start of the year, Harvey was a huge question mark. He hadn't pitched since August 2013, when Tommy John surgery ended a lights-out run that included starting the All-Star Game in front of the home crowd at Citi Field.

It took one game for Harvey to answer everything. In his return to the mound on April 9, Harvey reclaimed his ace status, overpowering the rival Nationals in Washington and leading the Mets to a 6-3 win in their Opening Series finale.

Seeing the Mets' roster for that game, it's amazing how far they had to go to get to the World Series. Noah Syndergaard didn't get called up until May. Steven Matz didn't debut until June. Michael Conforto didn't come up until July. Yoenis Céspedes wasn't even on the team until the Trade Deadline.

Here's a look back at the Dark Knight's return, which is today's box score of the day.

Player of the game: Matt Harvey, SP, Mets

Harvey's first pitch back? A 97-mph fastball for a called strike to Michael A. Taylor. A few pitches later, Harvey struck him out with a nasty curve. That was just the beginning.

Harvey pitched six shutout innings with nine strikeouts, punctuated by a K of Clint Robinson to end his outing. He outdueled -- not for the first time (remember the "Harvey's better" game?) -- and struck out all three times he faced him. Harvey blew Harper away, striking him out with fastballs clocking at 98 mph, 97 mph and 97 mph.

Harvey was backed by Mets captain , who went 2-for-5 with a two-run single off Strasburg. Soon after, Wright was diagnosed with the spinal stenosis that cut short his career. The Mets' 2015 run gave Wright a last hurrah, including his memorable World Series home run at Citi Field.

Remember him? , 3B, Nationals

How crazy is this: on the 2015 Nats, Escobar was starting at third base over . Not in this exact game -- Rendon was hurt to start the year -- but when he returned, Rendon moved to second base because Escobar was entrenched at third. (Rendon played a bunch of second base early in his career, if you didn't remember.)

Escobar played 11 MLB seasons after arriving from Cuba, bouncing from the Braves -- where he got Rookie of the Year votes in 2007 and MVP votes in '09 as their pre- shortstop -- to the Blue Jays, Rays, Nationals and Angels. This was Escobar's only season with the Nats, who got him in a trade that January. He hit .314 for them in 139 games.

Fun fact: Escobar was the last hitter ever faced. Mo popped him up.

He wore THAT uniform? , LF, Mets

Cuddyer wasn't just a Met; he was an important veteran presence in New York's clubhouse in '15. The longtime Twins outfielder was on a one-season stop in the Big Apple, the last season of his 15-year career. (Not to discount Cuddyer's in-between years with the Rockies. ... He won a batting title in Colorado in 2013.)

By the 2015 playoffs, Cuddyer had stepped aside into pinch-hitting and platoon duty, making way for the young Conforto and the superstar acquisition Céspedes. But Cuddyer did knock 10 of his 197 career homers for the Mets, and in this game, he went 2-for-5 out of the cleanup spot with an RBI single off Strasburg.

Before he was big: , 2B, Mets

In April of 2015, Murphy was still mortal. Only in October did he become an unstoppable hitting force.

The Murphy batting fifth for the Mets in Washington was an opposite-field line-drive hitter, and though he was an All-Star in 2014, he didn't even reach double-digit home runs that season.

Then came the '15 postseason, when Murphy homered off Clayton Kershaw, Clayton Kershaw again, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Fernando Rodney. And then came the 2016 season, when Murphy jumped to the Nats and was the NL MVP runner-up, batting .347 with a league-leading .595 slugging percentage and .985 OPS.

Last call: , 2B, Nationals

When you think of Dan Uggla, you probably think of the Marlins -- his original team, where he was a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger and a four-time 30-home run hitter. You might also think of the Braves, where he was an All-Star, too. But the Nationals? Yes, Uggla was there. Once one of MLB's top slugging second basemen, a 35-year-old Uggla went to a third NL East team to finish up his career in 2015.

Though Uggla started for the Nationals on April 9 and got a hit off Harvey, he played only 67 games for Washington in his last call. But he went out on top. Uggla's final Major League game was Max Scherzer's no-hitter against the Mets on the last weekend of the season -- and Uggla homered in his final at-bat.