Who says the Mets had no talent at Triple-A Buffalo this year? Oh, right. This guy. He’s wrong.
A duel between two AAA All-Stars on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park turned on the bat of a man who recently returned from there. Lucas Duda mashed a two-run homer in the third inning — his first since returning from a stint at Buffalo – and Matt Harvey made it stand up, outdueling Phillies starter Tyler Cloyd, a fellow International League All-Star, as the Mets topped the Phillies 3-2 in Philadelphia for their fourth straight win. It’s the first time the Mets have won four straight since late June and the Wednesday’s victory moved them back into a tie with the Phillies for the NL East Bronze Medal.
In the early innings it didn’t look like the game was headed in that direction. The Phillies were on Harvey at the outset and several well struck balls helped them produce runs in each of the first two innings. But Harvey settled in to allow just two runs over 6 1/3 innings on just six hits. He walked only two and struck out six, even without the benefit of the dominant stuff we were used to seeing in some of his previous starts.
The teams played pinball on the scoreboard for the first few innings. After the Mets stranded two runners in their half of their first, the Phillies cashed in back-to-back singles by Juan Pierre and Chase Utley in the bottom half when Ryan Howard produced a sac fly to make it 1-0. The Philly lead didn’t last long as New York tied the game shortly thereafter when Harvey singled home Scott Hairston, who led off the second with a double, to knot it at one.
Philadelphia retook the lead against Harvey in the bottom of the second when Harvey couldn’t finish off the pitcher to get out of the inning. After striking out Laynce Nix with a 99 MPH heater to start the second, Harvey surrendered a hard single up the middle by Kevin Frandsen. He came back to get the second out on a fly ball to center, but walked the pitcher Cloyd with two outs and then hung a breaking ball to Jimmy Rollins, who lined it down the right field line for a run-scoring double to push the Phillies in front 2-1.
That lead was also short-lived for the Phillies thanks to the big bat of Duda. The Dude followed an Ike Davis single in the third with a laser beam homer that shot just inside the right field foul pole and deep into the bleachers to put New York in front 3-2. At that point it seemed the rivals would be trading runs all night, but both teams’ bats went silent after Duda’s blast.
Harvey worked quickly through the third and fourth, allowing just one baserunner — Utley, whom he hit leading off the third, but erased with a double play grounder. Cloyd likewise mowed through the top of the fourth and fifth innings to keep the game close. Harvey faced Cloyd leading off the fifth and inexplicably walked him again, what Harvey called the low point of the night.
But the rookie starter showed some guts as he worked around it. He struck out Rollins on a 99 MPH fastball at the knees, but a single by Pierre put Harvey in dire straits with one out and the middle of the Phillies’ order ahead. Yet, instead of giving in as we’ve become accustomed to seeing Mets pitchers do, Harvey bore down.
He battled with Utley until he got the lefty to yank a 2-2 changeup away on a line to Mike Baxter in right for the second out. Howard gave him a similar battle, running the count full. When Harvey came back with a 3-2 fastball on the outside edge, Howard went with it, but couldn’t get enough and Lucas Duda ran it down on the warning track to end the inning.
The Phillies managed one more hit off Harvey — a one out double by Nix in the sixth. But Harvey got Frandsen to hammer a fastball into the ground to short for the second out and then caught Erik Kratz staring at a 99 MPH fastball on the outside corner at the knees to end the inning.
The strikeout earned Harvey one batter in the seventh and he got Placido Polanco to line out to center. Josh Edgin followed by retiring Rollins and Pierre to end the inning. Robert Carson made it seven in-a-row retired by Mets pitchers when he dispatched Utley and Howard on eighth inning fly balls and Jon Rauch sent the game to the ninth by getting John Mayberry to tap weakly back toward the mound. Though Rauch threw just three pitches in the eighth, Terry Collins showed faith in his closer and brought in Frank Francisco, who pitched a shutdown ninth with two swinging strikeouts to end it.
Random Stache Stat: The win was New York’s seventh this season in Philadelphia, where they are 7-1. It’s the first time the Mets have won at least seven games in Philly since 1972 when they won eight.
Game Ball: Split it four ways amongst the bullpen quartet of Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, who were perfect in relief of Harvey, getting the final eight outs in order to secure a 3-2 win.
Turning Point: With two outs and two on in the fifth, Ryan Howard sent a soaring drive to the opposite field that — had it dropped in — would’ve at least tied the game, if not given the Phillies the lead. But Lucas Duda tracked the ball to the wall and made a leaping catch to rob Howard and preserve the 3-2 Mets advantage. Philadelphia got just one hit the rest of the way.
Next Up: The Mets and Phillies are back at it on Thursday afternoon in the final game of a three game series as the Mets go for the sweep. Lefty Jonathon Niese (10-7, 3.51 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 134 K) takes the mound for the Mets against Phillies righty Kyle Kendrick (7-9, 4.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 84 K). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always, on WFAN 660 AM.