It's Good To Be Matt Harvey These Days

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NEW YORK

Life is good these days for the big kid from Fitch High. He's king buddies with Rangers goalie King Henrik Lundqvist. He tools around in a spiffy Escalade. On the mound, he's nearly unhittable, so much so even Doc Gooden came out to watch him Tuesday night.

And if those photos aren't doctored, he's dating Anne Sergeyevna Vyalitsyna, otherwise known as Sports Illustrated swimsuit supermodel Anne V. Matt Harvey was spotted hugging the 27-year-old Russian at a Rangers-Bruins playoff game last week at Madison Square Garden. And there he was Monday, smooching in the Soho section of Manhattan after lunch at Cafe Habana.

Yes, life is good for Matt Harvey.

Yep, like his record today, life remains damn near perfect for the 24-year-old righthander from Mystic.

The Mets seem to lose to everybody except when Harvey pitches. And on this night something remarkable happened. After throwing the ceremonial first pitch, Mariano Rivera threw an inglorious last pitch to Lucas Duda. Duda whacked a Rivera splitter into center field to cap a two-run ninth that gave the Mets a 2-1 victory and Rivera his first blown save and first loss of a heretofore perfect last-season tour of the majors. More than that, it was the first time in his Hall of Fame career that he had blown a save without recording an out.

"Everybody played their heart out," Harvey said after the game. "The excitement in the clubhouse afterward, you don't get to experience something like that often."

On Monday night, before he walked to the Citi Field mound to face the team he rooted so hard for as a kid, Harvey said: "Growing up watching the Subway Series, I dreamed of being involved in it. Now being a part of it, it's definitely kind of a dream come true."

Well, Harvey pitched brilliantly over eight innings. He scattered six singles, struck out 10, walked nobody and still stood to lose his first game since last Sept. 12.

Two reasons.

A. Hiroki Kuroda pitched every bit as well as Harvey.

B. The Mets, as evidenced by the 5-20 record of all the other starters, are one bad baseball team.

Only the loss didn't happen, because Matt Harvey is living the dream, a dream where even Rivera has nightmares.

Harvey estimated the other night that his dad, Ed, had taken him to a half-dozen Subway Series games over the years. Sometimes Shea Stadium. Sometimes Yankee Stadium. Always he rooted for the Yankees. Paul O'Neill was his favorite. And there was Derek Jeter, too. After this game, he talked about how much he used to enjoy watching Gooden pitch, too.

Neither of those guys was in a Yankees road uniform on Tuesday night, of course, O'Neill now an announcer with YES and Jeter still nursing a re-fractured ankle. A-Rod wasn't in the lineup and neither were Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis or Curtis Granderson. With the game in a National League barn, there was no DH role for Travis Hafner. No, these weren't the Bronx Bombers. These are the Pinstripe Patchworks. Yet this also is Yankees team that some how has been able to piece together a 31-20 record through the first two months of the season. And they do have Robinson Cano, one of the game's purest swingers.

The first big moment of Harvey's night arrived in the top of the third inning. Reid Brignac capped an impressive eight-pitch at-bat by smacking a Harvey slider to right field and Brett Gardner lined a curveball to left field. Two men on, two men out and up to the plate walked Cano.

"I don't care who goes in the batter's box," Harvey's manager, Terry Collins, said before the game. "When this guy is on, it doesn't matter."

Fastball. Ball one. Three foul balls. Change. Fastball. Fastball. Ball two. Slider. And then on a 2-2 pitch, Harvey demonstrated the power, the maturity, the overwhelming and ever-developing presence. He blew away Cano with a 2-2 slider. Wow.

This is why New York sat through the rain for 90 minutes. This is why the Mets, looking at a rare big crowd, did everything in their power to avoid a rainout. Everyone knew that once it got started, no matter how long the delay, it would be over quick enough in taut fashion.

Harvey wore a Yankees cap growing up to those Subway Series games, but now his cap was more royal shade of blue.

"This is a game he has looked forward to since the day he signed," Collins said.

During the rain delay, Collins made it sound as if Harvey was a caged tiger.

"He came in no less than four times, sweat dripping off him, no uniform on yet, wanting to know when we're going to start. One thing that was cool he said, 'I want to pitch tonight. I want to pitch this ballpark.' He was amped."

"I couldn't sit still," Harvey said. "I was jumping around. I was excited."

On Monday, Harvey said his sisters and parents brought up the fact that they would have loved to see him pitch at Yankee Stadium. He said that day will come. Just be patient. The family is all Mets fans now, Harvey said. , and then he added that he hoped he converted a lot of people in Mystic, too.

Gardner crushed a fastball to lead off the first, but Rick Ankiel tracked it down in deep center field and from there Harvey started dealing. Seriously. Dealing.

In the second, he struck out Lyle Overbay looking at a 96 mph fastball and then he got David Adams admiring a 98 mph fastball. like he was admiring Anne V in the pages of the SI. And on and on it went until the sixth when Gardner lined a leadoff single to right and went to second on an error by Marlon Byrd. Gardner moved to third on Cano's groundout and Lyle Overbay, who hasn't suffered for a shortage of huge hits this spring, lined a Harvey changeup into center for an RBI.

"I should have thrown a fastball. As soon as I let it up, it was one of those pitches I wanted back," Harvey said. "I could tell when I released it he was waiting for it. I got a piece of the glove on it."

"He pitched very, very well, but I've seen him pitch better," Collins said. "The frustrating thing is that changeup to Overbay, he left it up. We're used to this guy making no mistakes. He made a mistake and it cost him.

"This guy is is going to be fun to watch for a long time."

Collins saw Rivera throw out the ceremonial first pitch, a great gesture by the Mets. He wasn't around when Rivera entered the game in the ninth. Collins was tossed for going loco on Adrian Johnson after the second base umpire called Ruben Tejada out to end the sixth inning. Replays showed Kuroda picked off Tejada, but what obviously steamed the Mets was that Johnson at first called him safe before changing the call.

So Harvey, who entered the night at 5-0, with an ERA of 1.93 [fifth best in the majors] and an 0.83 WHIP [best in the majors], was looking at his first loss since last Sept. 12.

Didn't happen.

Rivera, who hasn't blinked all season, blinked.

The kid from Mystic is living large.

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