The storm clouds gathering over the New York Mets were cast aside in the Arizona desert by the debut of Matt Harvey, who became the first pitcher in franchise history and 13th overall to strikeout at least 11 batters in his first big league appearance. In addition, his game score of 70 was the third highest among all Mets’ rookies and 64th highest of any pitcher in his first game, which ranks among the top 1%. What’s more, Harvey’s impressive outing wasn’t limited to his pitching. The right hander also chipped in at the plate with a single and double, becoming the only pitcher in the modern era to begin his career with as many as 10 strikeouts and two hits.
You can’t blame Mets’ fans if there is an extra bounce in their step this morning. After watching their team lose 12 of the previous 13 games, Harvey’s dominant debut couldn’t have come at a better time. However, there is a note of caution. For every Juan Marichal who bursts onto the big league scene, there’s a Steve Woodard or Karl Spooner, pitchers who, following a historic first game, saw their careers plagued by ineffectiveness and injury, respectively.
Instead of getting preoccupied with charting the course of Harvey’s career, Mets’ fans are better off basking in the glow of his outstanding performance. And, Yankees’ fans shouldn’t try to rain of their parade. After all, it’s been almost 20 years since the Bronx Bombers have had a pitcher break into the majors with a game score as high Harvey’s. On July 23, 1993, Australian righty Mark Hutton won his debut, limiting the Angels to just three hits and one earned run over eight innings, leading to a game score of 71. Unfortunately for the Yankees, that turned out to be the only victory Hutton would register in pinstripes.
As for strikeouts, the Yankees have never had a rookie reach double digits in his first game. On July 10, 1997, Hideki Irabu set the franchise record of nine punch outs in a debut outing, temporarily fulfilling the promise of his much anticipated arrival in the Bronx. Once again, however, Irabu’s career was mostly filled with disappointment, and, sadly, his life ended in tragedy.
Nothing seems to invigorate a team, and its fan base, more than the breakout debut of a rookie talent, particularly when it’s a pitcher throwing 95 mph. The Mets experienced that last night in Phoenix, which, seems appropriate, because if Harvey can sustain his excellence over the final two months, the team just might be able to salvage its season from the ashes of what otherwise threatens to be another long and hopeless summer in Flushing.