New York Mets starter Matt Harvey retired the first 12 batters on the way to a masterful 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the chilly opener of the National League Championship Series on Saturday.
Harvey shut down the power-hitting Cubs on four hits over 7-2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and was followed to the mound by closer Jeurys Familia, who registered the last four outs for the save.
“He pitched a great game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of his starter, who is on the comeback trail this season following a lost year due to elbow surgery.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Harvey leaned heavily on his secondary pitches on a cold, windy night that had the sell-out Citi Field crowd dressed in winter jackets and many of the players in balaclavas to keep warm.
“He was outstanding,” said Maddon. “Give him credit. His stuff is always good, but the command was outrageous tonight.”
The win gave New York a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven that determines the National League representative in the World Series and pits two teams starved for a shot at the title.
Chicago is trying to reach a first World Series in 70 years and win the Major League title after a 107-year wait since their 1908 triumph. The Mets last won the Fall Classic 29 years ago.
Red-hot Daniel Murphy continued his postseason barrage by putting New York ahead in the first, crushing a solo home run to right off Chicago starter Jon Lester.
It was Murphy’s third game in a row with a home run and fourth homer overall in the postseason for the second baseman.
Harvey was perfect for the first four innings but hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch leading off the fifth. Starlin Castro followed with a line drive double over centerfielder Juan Lagares’ head that scored Rizzo to make it 1-1.
One out later, Javier Baez singled to left but rifle-armed Yoenis Cespedes fired home to gun down Castro at the plate.
New York reclaimed the lead for good in the bottom half on a two-out, RBI-single from Curtis Granderson.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud belted a solo home run in the sixth off the Big Apple in dead center and a sacrifice fly by Granderson in the eighth made it 4-1.
Harvey, who last month caused a stir when he expressed concerns over throwing too many innings in coming back from surgery, lobbied manager Collins to come out for the eighth.
He got the first two outs before rookie Kyle Schwarber blasted a massive 459-foot home run for his third successive game with a homer that brought the Cubs within 4-2 and had Collins waving Familia in for Harvey.
“Getting the ball in the first game, I really wanted to start things off the right way and get us rolling,” said Harvey, who was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA this season.
“Fortunately enough I had things working pretty well.”
Game Two of the best-of-seven will be played on Sunday in New York, with the Cubs starting Jake Arrieta against fireballing Noah Syndergaard.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by John O’Brien)