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Veteran third baseman Michael Young of the Phillies, after getting three hitless looks at Harvey last month, declared, "He's the real deal. His stuff is firm. But what really impressed me was his command. A major league hitter can time a jet engine. It doesn't matter how hard you throw it if you can't command it. He throws four pitches he commands—just pinpoint accuracy."
This season hitters are batting .143 against Harvey with a .416 OPS, which means he turns entire lineups into something worse than the ninth spot in the average National League lineup (.202, .543). He is downright filthy when he gets two strikes on a hitter: allowing a .101 average while ending 57% of those at bats with a third strike. "I grew up watching Clemens," he says. "When he had two strikes it was, 'All right, here it is: Hit it, and it's coming in hard.' "
After Harvey beat Strasburg, he went to dinner in Manhattan's chic Meatpacking District with one of his two older sisters, his brother-in-law and two friends. They walked on Ninth Avenue, with Harvey and the two friends in front, his sister and her husband behind them. When they arrived at the restaurant, his sister was laughing about what had just happened on the street. "Do you know how many people just did the second take on you?" she said to her brother.
Time after time New Yorkers walking in the opposite direction would stop in their tracks and process this tall, dark knight who looked ... familiar ... yes, it was the phenom ... the city's great hope ... yes, that's Matt Harvey.
"Really?" Matt said. He smiled. This is the life he wanted, the role he wanted. "That's pretty cool."
The next morning Ed called him. The father couldn't shake a sense of worry after seeing his son throw baseballs with such brutality. "Matt, are you all right? You worked really hard."
Matt was taken aback. "He had never asked me that before," he recalls.
"Dad," the son replied, "I work hard every game."
"Man, you just ... you came out firing."
And then the coach and the coach's son returned to a more familiar place, another of their easy conversations with this invisible thread called baseball connecting them. Sometimes Ed might tell him he is missing with his slider, or that his front shoulder is flying open too soon, or point out some other tiny imperfection only a coach can see. But this time Ed had nothing to report. "Your arm swing," he said, "is perfect. You just have to remember to keep doing that every time. When you keep your arm swing, nobody's better. Nobody's better."