On Thursday, in Arizona, Matt Harvey will make his major league debut. We don't want to instantly compare him to Tom Seaver or Jerry Koosman or Dwight Gooden, but we can at least take a look back and see how some of the New York Mets pitching greats began their careers. Here are the starting pitching debuts of a handful of notable Mets, and they all performed well. Let's hope Harvey follows in their footsteps.
Tom Seaver made his major league debut in the second game of the 1967 season, on April 13, at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Seaver got a no-decision in the Mets' 3-2 victory. The first batter he faced was Matty Alou, who doubled, but Maury Wills grounded out to third, Roberto Clemente grounded out to first, Willie Stargell walked and Seaver's future teammate Donn Clendenon whiffed to end the inning and become Seaver's first-ever strikeout victim. Seaver let up runs in the third and fourth innings, and his final line read: 5.2 innings pitched, two runs, six hits, eight strikeouts and four walks. Chuck Estrada relieved Seaver and picked up the win, while Ron Taylor earned the save. Woodie Fryman was the opposing starting pitcher, and Met second baseman Jerry Buchek was the offensive star of the game, hitting a two-run homer and scoring the winning run on a Chuck Hiller double. Seaver notched his first major league win in his next start against the Chicago Cubs, and in his third-ever start he pitched a 10-inning, complete-game shutout over the Cubs. Seaver, of course, went on to win the Rookie of the Year.
That same season, Jerry Koosman had a brief nine-game stint with the Mets. He made six relief appearances in April and May (debuting one day after Seaver) before being called back up to make his first start on Sept. 17 at the Astrodome. He earned a no-decision in the 4-3 loss, lasting seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits, striking out two and walking five. The two runs were scored in the fourth inning, with future Mets Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte in the middle of things for the Houston Astros. Ron Taylor got the loss for the Mets, while Don Wilson was Koosman's opposing starter. Koosman joined the rotation the next season and recorded his first major league win in his first start of '68, a complete-game shutout over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He came in second to Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year voting (though, according to Gary Cohen, he should have won).
The season before winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1972, Jon Matlack made six starts and one relief appearance in '71. His first-ever start and big-league appearance came on July 11, which was the last game before the All-Star break. The Mets were defeated by the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3, at Riverfront Stadium in the second game of a double header. Matlack went seven innings, gave up two runs and six hits, with one strikeout and no walks, getting a no-decision. Tug McGraw relieved him, and Seaver came in later and was tabbed with the loss. The first batter Matlack faced was Pete Rose, who grounded out to third. Lee May was Matlack's first strikeout victim, and Jim McGlothlin was the starting pitcher for the Reds. Matlack's first major league win came in relief of Gary Gentry on April 23, 1972, against the Cubs.
Eleven years later, on Sept. 6, 1983, at Shea Stadium, Ron Darling pitched in his first major league game. The Mets lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-0, but Darling excelled, lasting six-plus innings, only giving up one earned run on five hits, striking out six with one walk. Doug Sisk and Carlos Diaz pitched in relief of Darling, while Tony Ghelfi started for the Phillies, with Tug McGraw picking up the win. The first three batters Darling faced were Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt (welcome to the major leagues). Morgan and Rose struck out, and Schmidt grounded out to third. The only run let in by Darling came in the fourth inning when he balked Morgan to third and then balked again. Darling recorded his first win in his fifth and final start of 1983, when he threw a complete game against the Pirates.
On April 7, 1984, another Met Rookie of the Year, Dwight Gooden, made his first-ever start, in the fourth game of the season for the Mets (Mike Torrez was the opening-day starter that year). The Mets defeated the Astros, 3-2, in the Astrodome, with Gooden earning the win. He threw five innings of three-hit ball, allowing one run, striking out five and walking two batters. Dick Tidrow, Doug Sisk and Jesse Orosco relieved, with Orosco getting the save, and Bob Knepper was the opposing pitcher. Gooden breezed through his first inning, setting the Astros down in order, with Dickie Thon being Gooden's first strikeout victim, which ended the inning. Darryl Strawberry homered and Mookie Wilson doubled in Keith Hernandez and George Foster for the three Met runs. Ray Knight was the Astros first baseman that day.
While the next two aren't exactly "greats," we'll throw them in for good measure. Bobby Jones made his debut at Veterans Stadium, on Aug. 14, 1993, beating the Phillies, 9-5. Jones went six innings for the win, allowed one earned run (but five total), gave up seven hits, struck out three and walked one. Lenny Dykstra was the first batter he faced, and the former Met lined out to Ryan Thompson in center field. Mariano Duncan was Jones' first strikeout victim. On July 8, 2006, Mike Pelfrey debuted, as the Mets destroyed the Florida Marlins, 17-3, at Shea. Pelfrey only lasted five innings, giving up two earned runs (three total) on five hits, struck out three and walked four. Jose Valentin drove in seven runs that day, while Cliff Floyd had five RBIs.
Not one disaster in the bunch. And Harvey can only hope one of his teammates has a Jose Valentin-like day.