Matt Harvey's bid to go 5-0 in the month of April will have to wait until next week, as the New York Mets star pitcher left Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a no-decision thanks to some heroics from David Wright in the ninth inning.
For the Dodgers, who have endured all sorts of pitching issues to start the season even though that was supposed to be the greatest strength of the roster, the successful return of Ted Lilly—at least for one night—had to put their minds at ease.
Lilly, making his first start since May 23, 2012, went five innings, giving up six hits, one earned run, two walks and seven strikeouts. Matt Kemp, who is off to a slow start this season, provided some fireworks with his first home run of the year to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the sixth.
There was some controversy on Kemp's long ball, as a fan just beyond the right field wall tried to catch it, bobbled it and it fell back into the field of play. The umpires reviewed the play, saw the ball cleared the wall and awarded Kemp with a two-run homer.
Matt Harvey's Night
The story for the Mets, as it has been since he was called up last season, revolved around Harvey. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched well enough to win, giving up just three runs on four hits in six innings. He also struck out seven and walked just one.
But the big blast came off the bat of Kemp, all but ending Harvey's night even though he would stay on to get Andre Ethier to end the sixth inning. It was the first time all season the 24-year-old has given up more than one run in a start.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports noted that, thanks to Kemp's homer, Harvey did not join a very exclusive class of pitchers in baseball history.
Kemp HR means Fernando Valenzuela remains only pitcher since 1960 win first 5 starts with at least 7 IP, 1 R or none.— Danny Knobler (@DannyKnoblerCBS) April 25, 2013
Regardless, just because Harvey was less than perfect on this night, he still pitched well enough to win. He only made the one big mistake, and even that wasn't all his fault—Kemp just put a good swing on the pitch.
Despite facing his first real test of the season, Harvey was happy after the game about what his teammates were able to do and knows he will get better in the future (h/t MLB.com).
The bullpen came in and did a great job, and obviously, the timely hitting we had, that's the real story tonight. I've got work to do. I've got to move on from this start and get ready for my next start.
Matt Kemp Comes to Life
Kemp's performance actually made some history, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out on Twitter.
Matt Kemp is the first player with at least 3 RBI in a game against Matt Harvey— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2013
Following along the lines of a possible return to form for the All-Star center fielder, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports noted that Kemp's opposite field homer was the second time in as many nights he has really driven the ball well.
HR or not, that’s twice in two nights that #Dodgers’ Kemp went opposite field for extra bases. That one was on a 95-mph fastball from Harvey— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 25, 2013
Los Angeles entered this game with just 61 runs scored, 29th in baseball. Obviously there is still a long way to go, but that is alarming for a team that has spent a lot of money—you can debate how well the resources have been used—to put together a potent offense.
Getting Kemp back on track and eventually the return of Hanley Ramirez will be a great asset for this Dodgers lineup.
Kemp said in the locker room after the game that he wasn't concerned about his performance even before tonight, but that the team has to get better in these kinds of games (via MLB.com).
Home runs are going to come. We don't need to talk about home runs. Talk about the game. We've just got to get better, score more runs, do a better job of everything. We've just got to win these games.
David Wright and Jordany Valdespin Play Hero
With the Mets down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodgers third baseman Jerry Hairston made a beautiful catch in foul territory against the railing to keep Mike Baxter, who doubled to left field on a ball that Carl Crawford looked like he could have caught, at third base.
Wright came up with two outs and smacked a single into right center field to tie the game at three and send it to extra innings.
Mark Simon of ESPN.com noted that this was just the second time in Wright's storied career that he has pulled off this particular feat.
2nd time in his career that David Wright has tied a game with the Mets down to last out. Did so in this game too baseball-reference.com/boxes/ANA/ANA2…— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) April 25, 2013
Which player is more important to his team in 2013?
But the night was not over. After a scoreless top of the 10th inning, the Mets took their turn at bat to try and end the game.
John Buck, who has been hitting the ball like Johnny Bench to start the season, began things with a single. Ike Davis followed with a walk and Marlon Byrd sacrificed both runners over.
With runners on second and third with one out, Don Mattingly had Josh Wall intentionally walk Lucas Duda to load the bases and hope to get a groundball double play. Instead, Jordany Valdespin hit a walk-off grand slam to end the game 7-3.
Keith Law of ESPN.com pointed out how ridiculous it was for Wall to be in there with the bases loaded when it was clear he couldn't get anyone out.
Hilarious end to the Dodgers-Mets game. Mattingly IBB's Duda to load the bases, Wall can't throw a strike, grooves a 2-1 pitch, grand slam.— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 25, 2013
After the game, Valdespin said that he wanted to be up in that spot again after he had failed to knock in a run earlier in the game (via MLB.com)
The first time [Collins] gave me a chance, I hit a ground ball and I said, 'I want to hit again. I want to hit again because I want to win the game. And then I got up again and hit the big one.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com the reason Wall was still in there when he clearly didn't have it is because his bullpen has been taxed in recent days.
I was out of bullets. [You] play the cards you're dealt at that point.
For more baseball analysis, be sure to follow me on Twitter.