Rounding Third: Harvey gives Mets something to believe in

While the rest of New York was likely tuned into Knicks and Islanders playoff action, the Mets' Matt Harvey pitched the best game of this Major League Baseball season.

Against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, Harvey pitched nine scoreless innings, struck out a career-high 12 batters and allowed just one hit -- an infield single to Alex Rios with two outs in the seventh.

"He's as advertised," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Harvey. "You hear about guys, especially when they're not in your league and you don't see them very much. But as far as what you see throughout the league, he has as dominating stuff as anyone we've seen."

According to Game Score, the metric that stats guru Bill James came up with to assess a pitcher's performance, Harvey threw the second-best nine-inning game in team history. His score of 97 is tied with a 1970 one-hitter by Tom Seaver, and behind only David Cone's 19-strikeout game in 1991.

It also rated higher than Yu Darvish's near perfect game from earlier in the season. In fact, since 1916, there have been only 40 outings of nine innings or less with a higher number.

"Everything was obviously working," Harvey said. "When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that's when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I've felt all year."

But there was something missing from that incredible stat line: a win. Despite the tremendous showing, the offensively challenged Mets couldn't push a run across for Harvey while he was in the game.

The Mets did eventually win in 10 innings, but Harvey had his third straight no-decision. He has allowed just four runs in 20 1/3 innings over that span, but has nothing to show for it.

"It's baseball. Things like that happen," said Harvey of Chicago's only hit. "The guys made all the plays. John Buck called an amazing game. I think I shook him off three times, like I have all year. I jumped on his back and I was fortunate enough that I was able to execute each pitch."

Either way Harvey has given the hapless Mets something to believe in. He's become must-see TV, similar to the way Dwight Gooden gripped Flushing back in the mid-1980s.

While Gooden starts were events back then, the Citi Field crowd seems to be a little late to the Harvey party.

There was an announced attendance of just over 23,000 at Citi on Tuesday, but if you saw any of the game you realized the Mets play that little trick of announcing tickets sold rather than those who actually show up. Now the playoffs in the area probably had something to do with that, but more likely the Mets' play over the past couple of weeks is the bigger reason for the low turnout.

Harvey has become bigger than that. His starts will begin to become a big deal from here on out.

Through seven starts, the 24-year-old righty is 4-0, he is second in the league with a 1.28 ERA and his 58 strikeouts lead the NL.

Quite simply, Harvey has been the best pitcher in baseball this season and very well could find himself as the National League's starting pitcher at this year's All- Star Game, which, of course, takes place at Citi Field.

It may be the only time he sees Citi Field full this year.


* In one of the more scarier moments you'll ever see, Toronto's J.A. Happ was taken off the field by stretcher after taking a line drive from Desmond Jennings off the side of his head. Happ remained conscious and was brought straight to the hospital. Reportedly he was responsive and doing well on Wednesday and should be discharged from the hospital. Now the debate will begin on whether pitchers should wear some sort of head gear. The answer, of course, is yes, but these players are stubborn. Kind of like hockey players who still refuse to wear a shield. But, there are rubber helmets that sit atop the cap that look similar to a biking helmet and are worn by some high school pitchers. That seems to be the way to go, or someone is going to die on the mound.

* Apparently a memorabilia collector has obtained a bat used by the great Mickey Mantle that was corked. Despite what these sleazy memorabilia collectors will tell you, it's almost impossible to determine if Mantle actually used this bat in a real game. The Mantle lovers are out in droves, though, making sure the Mick's name is not sullied. Is it so crazy to think someone as morally corrupt as Mantle would cork his bat? Read some books on him. That would rank around 97th on the list of bad things he's done in his life.

* So who's closing games for the Boston Red Sox now? Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan are both on the disabled list with injuries. Manager John Farrell has said that Junichi Tazawa will get first crack at the role. You have to think that the Red Sox are perhaps trying to get old friend Theo Epstein on the phone to discuss a Carlos Marmol deal. The Cubs would likely move him for a couple of Fenway Franks, but even the Red Sox don't appear that desperate. Yet.

* If you have a second, try to find the YouTube clip of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp signing an autograph for a boy with cancer. Dodgers third base coach explained to Kemp during the game that there was a sick boy out there who was a big fan. After the game, Kemp not only signed a ball for the boy, but gave him his hat, cleats and the jersey off his back. With the news that Alex Rodriguez has resumed baseball activities, it's kind of refreshing knowing that there are still players like Kemp out there.

* Speaking of the Dodgers, I may have put my Manager of the Year jinx on skipper Don Mattingly. In the past five years, one of my manager of the year choices has been fired. Mattingly could be following suit, as the Dodgers look lost, having lost six in a row and eight of their last 10.