Matt Harvey is one of three pitchers to begin a season with at least 25 strike outs in his first three games. It is the second time in Mets history that it has been done, the other Mets pitched to do it; was future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1970. Lets take a look at the two Mets pitchers, first three games, 43 years apart.
NOLAN RYAN -1970: On April 18th, 1970 Nolan Ryan took the mound at Shea Stadium for the first time in the young season for the reigning World Champion Mets. His last appearance had been World Series Game #3 at Shea, pitching in relief of Gary Gentry in the Mets 5-0 win. The shutout was saved by the two spectacular catches from Tommie Agee.
In the April 18th 1970 game, Ryan went up against the Phillies Jim Bunning. It was Bunning back on Fathers Day 1964, who pitched a perfect game against the Mets at Shea. But todays game was all about the Mets & Nolan Ryan.
Ryan went out & pitched the fourth one hitter in Mets history. The Phillies Denny Doyle led off the game with a single & it would be the only Philadelphia hit on the day. Ryan did walk six batters, but allowed no runs & struck out 15 batters, impressing everyone. It was quite a day for the 23,000 in attendance.
The Mets scored three runs in the first, with base hits from Tommie Agee, Bud Harrelson & Joe Foy. An error & a fielder's choice off the bat of Art Shamsky made up the three runs. In the third, Shamsky knocked Bunning out of the game with an RBI double, putting New York up 5-0. Kenny Boswell & Tommie Agee added late inning HRs to complete Ryan's 7-0 shutout.
In Ryan's next start, he pitched a classic pitcher's duel at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles. He was on the losing end of a 1-0 loss to Claude O'Steen. In this game Ryan only allowed two hits, & struck out five. One of Ryan's problems in the early years was his wildness, something that didn't make Manager Gil Hodges too happy. Ryan walked five & hit a batter.
In the bottom of the third inning, Billy Grabarkewitz was hit by a Ryan pitch & advanced on a sacrifice. Then legendary base stealer Maury Wills singled driving in the only run of the game. It was also the last hit of the game for the Dodgers, but Ryan took the loss.
In his third outing of the year, he had another outstanding outing in San Francisco. The Mets backed him with two early runs in the first inning off Mike McCormick. Joe Foy drove in two runs with a single, later Cleon Jones added an RBI single as well & the scoring was topped off by a Tommie Agee HR, once again. Ryan pitched a three hit, one run victory against the Giants, striking out eight batters, this time walking eight.
In his first three starts he had struck out 28 batters in 26 innings pitched, allowing just two earned runs (0.69 ERA). He walked an incredible 19 batters & had a 2-1 record.
MATT HARVEY 2013:
Matt Harvey began the 2013 season with a lot of excitement surrounding him after a fantastic debut in 2012.
He started the second game of the Mets season, against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Harvey struck out the first two batters he faced & allowed the only hit of his day in the 4th inning to Everth Cabrera. Harvey went on to strike out ten Padres over seven innings, allow no runs on the one hit & walked two. The Mets came up big with eight runs, led by two run HRs from John Buck, Ike Davis & Lucas Duda.
His second start was in Philadelphia, a 7:05 start against Roy Halladay, in front of 35,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets gave him support right away, as the hot John Buck blasted a three run HR in the 2nd inning & Lucas Duda had an RBI single in the 3rd. Harvey gave up a sac fly RBI to Ryan Howard, the only run he allowed on the day. The Mets came back knocking out Halladay in the 5th, with four hits including a two run single from Ruben Tejada & an RBI single from David Wright.
Harvey rolled along striking out seven Phillies through seven innings, one earned run, three hits & a pair of walks.
On Saturday April 13th, Harvey took the mound on a cold afternoon in Minnesota in front of 29,000 brave Minneapolis fans. Harvey may have been at his finest on this cold day, flirting with a no hitter into the 7th inning. Harvey had allowed just two walks into the seventh inning, then Justin Morneau blasted a HR down the right field line breaking up the no hitter.
Harvey earned his third win of the year, leading the NL in wins, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out six. Through his first three games he has struck out 25 batters in 22 innings, posting a 0.82 ERA.
The comparisons between Harvey & Ryan are incredible, some 43 years later. Harvey may be just what the Mets need to turn the organization around, just as some other pitchers have done in the past.
Remember Dwight Gooden's arrival in 1984 or Tom Seaver's arrival in 1967?