Going from the Dark Knight to a dark horse isn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Matt Harvey. The Orioles have had worse happen to them the last few years than a dark horse pitching up well enough to send them on the way to a second straight season-opening win, too.
Looking resplendent enough in the Orioles’ orange and black, mustachioed but no longer bearded, Harvey started and pitched three shutout innings before running into a little trouble in the fourth and tiring after 86 pitches with two out, two aboard, and a one-run Oriole lead in the fifth.
For other pitchers it might be cause for caution tape. For Harvey, it might be a giant step forward in the second act that’s been harder to find than Harvey once found the bright New York lights that finally helped sear him when his shoulder didn’t.
The righthander threw 56 strikes, including eleven first-strikes and fifteen called strikes, and looked generally like he was anything but the increasingly lost cause who left the Mets for a brief resurrection in Cincinnati but a collapse in Anaheim.
To the Orioles, this is the next best thing to hitting a jackpot on a slot machine. To Harvey, it’s one step at a time even now. Don’t doubt for a moment that he won’t take it.
He certainly won’t spurn the help he got from his new friends. Not when two runs score for him in the top of the fourth on an infield hit, not when another run scores for him on another infield hit in the top of the fifth, not when a seventh-inning sacrifice fly re-claims a two-run Oriole lead, and not when the first of those two fourth-inning runs was set up by an unlikely throwing error by Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers.
Maybe the only real mistake involving Harvey was Oriole manager Brandon Hyde electing to let him pitch to J.D. Martinez in the fifth after back-to-back one-out walks to Kevin Plawecki and Enrique Hernandez. Martinez didn’t exactly murder Harvey, but his wicked-hopping comebacker bounced off Harvey’s body enough to let Plawecki score.
The so-far-surprising Oriole bullpen took it from there shutout style, not letting even the extremely few hiccups along the way stop them from stopping the Red Sox.
Harvey isn’t unappreciative. “Overall I think it was a solid first start and I’ll try to build off that next time,” he told reporters after the game. “Anytime you win the first series of the year, it’s big, so we’ve got some good momentum now. To come in here against a good ball club, you’ve got to play well and our guys came in and pitched great after me.”
That’s a far different tone than the one for which Harvey was once notorious. He’s no longer the howitzer-armed Dark Knight whom Met teammates sometimes accused of big-timing them while chasing the demimonde. He’s not the guy who thought the world was his to conquer until thoracic outlet surgery, diminished speed, and especially a crash and burn out of the demimonde and off the Mets brought him down to earth with a resounding crash.
When Harvey missed last year without a major league job, pondering and even making a video for consideration by the Korean Baseball Organisation, he spoke with an introspection many who knew him as a Met might have thought unlikely.
“There are a lot of things I’d do differently, but I don’t like to live with regret,” he told the New York Post.
There were just things I didn’t know at the time. Now, obviously, I’ve struggled the last few years. And what I know now is how much time and effort it takes to stay at the top of your game. I wouldn’t say my work ethic was bad whatsoever, but when you’re young, it’s not like you feel invincible, but when everything is going so well, you don’t know what it takes to stay on the field. It’s definitely more time consuming and takes more concentration.
The beginning of wisdom too often arrives after great pain and self-demolition. Harvey began acquiring it before he stepped on the mound for the Orioles. He pitched like it Saturday afternoon. All he has to do now is continue acquiring more hard-arrived wisdom and pitching every few days like he’s not kidding.