Jeff Jacobs: It Starts With Harvey, And It Hopefully Ends With Rivera

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All-Star Mets pitcher Matt Harvey asks New York fans what they think about Matt Harvey -- and they don't realize they're talking to the ACTUAL Matt Harvey. The results are hilarious.

NEW YORK — This isn't about the season, for the 2013 baseball season might not end up happily in New York. Nor is it necessarily about the careers of two pitchers who should bookend the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field.

This isn't about the macro. This is about the micro.

This is about the night.

Yeah, this is about a night when the mighty "what can be" and the mightier "what has been" meet at the intersection of Here and Now in the biggest, brightest, loudest baseball city there is.

This is about a Tuesday night that starts with Matt Harvey of the Mets, and, if the baseball gods have any sense of drama, a night that will end with Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.

This is about a July night when the big kid out of Mystic stomps to the mound on his home turf and faces a nasty, nasty American League batting order that starts out Trout, Cano, Cabrera, Davis, Bautista and Big Papi.

This is about a sweltering July night, when if Shakespeare is right and the play is the thing, that the bullpen door will open sometime near midnight and out will step a slender sliver of a pinstripe god.

"I know Matt wanted this very bad," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who'll serve as one of the National League coaches under Bruce Bochy. "He wanted this game desperately. He deserves to be out there."

Bochy, who managed the Giants to World Series championships in 2010 and 2012, had no sooner announced Monday that he had chosen Harvey to be his starter than he added it would have been the same if the game were in Atlanta, Kansas City or San Francisco.

"He has had a tremendous year," Bochy said. "It wouldn't have mattered what city we were playing in, with the year he has had."

The Mets are nine games under .500. Harvey is 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA, NL-best 147 strikeouts and second-best WHIP of .92. He has five no-decisions and a loss when allowing one or no runs. He easily could be 12-1 if he played on a team that could hit.

"I wish he would have his 12 wins," Collins said. "He doesn't. It doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the mound."

Collins might be Harvey's manager, but he sounded more like an anxious dad who wants his young guy to live up to the All-Star hype yet not go over the top emotionally and start trying to throw 105 mph.

"No doubt about it," Collins said. "But people who haven't seen him, they're going to see something special. He'll give you everything he has got, I'll tell you that."

"Matt loves the stage," said the Mets' David Wright, who'll start at third base. "He loves the spotlight. I'm running out of ways to describe how good he is. There's no reason he doesn't have 10 or 12 wins, except we haven't given him much run support."

Could you imagine if Harvey mowed down the AL the way Carl Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in order in 1934? Or if he mowed 'em down the way Pedro Martinez did in striking out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to start the 1999 game at Fenway Park? It would give Mets fans something to remember about 2013.

It would be a beautiful thing, but not nearly as beautiful as the one American League manager Jim Leyland has in his mind.

"It would be the most beautiful touch in the world if we can somehow get a lead on the National League and play the ninth inning with the greatest closer of all time coming out of the bullpen," the Tigers manager said. "I can assure you that would happen."

Even without the lead, Leyland guaranteed one thing.

"Whether it be a hitter or for an inning, depending on how the game goes, you will see No. 42 pitch."

Harvey is the third Mets pitcher after Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden and second Connecticut pitcher to start an All-Star Game. (Former Indians pitcher Charles Nagy, who went to Roger Ludlowe High and UConn, started in 1996 for the American League.) The last time a Connecticut position player started was Jeff Bagwell of Killingworth in 1997.

"This is a huge honor," Harvey said. "I'm really excited. I came up and obviously wanted to do everything I could to fill in for R.A. Dickey, who had a tremendous season last year. [After Dickey went to the Blue Jays], it was a role I wanted. Having this opportunity is one step closer. It's more drive to keep going and hopefully not make this my last All-Star Game.

"To be named with [Seaver and Gooden], they're two of the best. The support Doc has given me this year has been amazing and hopefully I make him proud. Our fans have been great, I want to make them proud, too."

Harvey won't have the same problem Seaver had in his first All-Star appearance in Anaheim in 1967. Seaver, only 22, had to show his player ID card to get past the gate attendant, and Lou Brock, thinking he was a clubhouse boy, asked him to get him a soda. This is a different time and place. Everybody in New York knows Harvey. Heck, after he appeared in the buff in the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, everybody has seen Harvey.

"Go ask guys who have faced him what they think," Collins said.

Joey Votto of the Reds?

"Pretty unhittable."

NL starting catcher Yadier Molina of the Cardinals?

"I'm looking forward to being part of the show."

NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks?

"Fortunately I didn't get to face him when we played them. His stuff is unbelievable, as good as anyone."

Sorry, I wasn't buying the lament of some delusional Mets fans who didn't want Harvey to miss even one season start because their team might make a run at the wild card. And with Harvey's workload being closely monitored, the truth is Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is in better position to win the Cy Young. Harvey has an unspecified innings limit. Nor, it turns out, were the blisters he had on his pitching hand, which resulted in a 1-2 and 4.05 ERA hiccup, the direct reason he skipped his last start. Harvey wanted this All-Star night. The Mets wanted this night.

"The blisters were an issue; they're gone," Collins said. "I'm not worried about him being hurt. He needs to pitch before next weekend. I didn't want him to have 10 days off. Bochy asked me if he can go two innings. I said he'll go five if you let him."

"He's going to be limited to 100-120 pitches," Bochy joked.

Harvey, the first pitcher to start in his home stadium since Roger Clemens in Houston in 2004, and, according to Elias, only the fifth since expansion in 1961, went out of his way to thank Bochy.

Leyland, meanwhile, would go on a riff about how his favorite All-Star moments are seeing a dad with his kid, maybe for the first time, watching batting practice, grinning ear to ear. It made you think of Harvey.

"I came as a kid to Shea and Yankee Stadium [with his dad Ed]," Harvey said. "Growing up in Connecticut, you want to play there and be one of those guys. This is something I always dreamed about. It's something I'll always cherish."

The first act by Harvey, 24, could be great. The last act by Rivera, 43, could be unforgettable. If the Sandman enters in the ninth inning, bringing down the curtain on the biggest stage in his final All-Star Game, it'll be something baseball fans of all ages will long cherish.

"Whoever has had the chance to be on the same field with Mariano Rivera should be honored," Collins said. "He's going to go down in history as the greatest reliever that ever was."

Yeah, this night is going to be a hot one.

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