Unless you live in the right parts of the country, there's a moment every summer when you realize that your baseball team won't be playing in October. For a downtrodden half of New York, that moment more or less arrived within the last two weeks: the Mets entered last night 1-11 since the all-star break. A fortnight ago, the chatterers wanted to know who the Mets would trade for and whether they'd ruin a rebuild by calling up a top prospect; now they want to know who the Mets will trade and whether they can call up more top prospects to get this rebuild underway quickly.
Despite the second wild card's advent, this July in Metsland has started giving off a distinct (carrion-scented) whiff of 2004—those Mets were one game over .500 at the break and finished July on a 5-11 stretch—but that team had an exciting young rookie named David Wright. (This one instead has Jordany Valdespin, who homers when he pinch-hits but often sits so Jason Bay can play out the year and a half left on his contract.) Those Mets memorably decided they were just half-seasons from Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano away from contention. These Mets probably won't make the same mistake. But they are still playing Bay and Ike Davis, neither of whom hits much, and pitching Ramon Ramirez and Manny Acosta, neither of whom retires too many batters. The team's recent games have brought all the joy of a state funeral.
Rookie starter Matt Harvey, who debuted last night, changed all that.
Harvey—who, as of last Saturday, was a less desirable option than the since-released Miguel Batista—struck out 11 Diamondbacks in five and a third innings. He allowed three hits and walked three, sure, but he almost made up for that with his own bat: He had a single and a double. And, as far as peripherals went, he excelled too: Harvey had 17 swinging strikes in his 106 pitches, which damn near doubles what any other Mets starter was able to do. He looked like the real thing. Hell, Fangraphs even squealed about his slider during the game.
Harvey likely won't save the Mets' season on his own. He pitches only every fifth day, and, besides, he wasn't even that good in Triple-A. But what he will do, with his angry fastballs and diving sliders, is breathe life into baseball that looked dead. The Mets had started to bloat in the heat after their execution, like that hell-pig on Gawker. But last night he excited the broadcasters. He excited the bloggers. He excited his teammates—they showered him with Bud Light. Today the Mets appear battered but spry, ready to go on fighting. That was all Terry Collins had promised at the start of the season, and that's really all this bunch knows how to do. Now, for the fight: the Mets have 10 games left against the D-Backs, Giants, and Padres on this trip. And, hey, look. They're just six and a half out of the wild card.