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A Matt Harvey history lesson

AP Photo/Genevieve Ross

Matt Harvey has had a historic start to 2013.

In case you haven’t noticed, Matt Harvey is in the midst of a heck of an incredible pitching stretch. In three starts this season, Harvey has pitched 22 innings and allowed only two runs and six hits.

If you go back to last season, this is actually a four-start run. He allowed only one run and one hit in seven innings in his final start of 2012 against the Phillies.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that he is the first pitcher in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) to make four straight appearance of at least seven innings pitched, with no more than one run AND three hits allowed.

So we’ve seen some history with this run by a pitcher whose career totals just 13 major-league starts.

But it got us to wondering about some other streaks and just how unusual they are. Baseball-Reference’s Play Index allows us to take a comprehensive look back to 1920.

If we lower the parameters to seven innings with no more than one run AND no more than two hits allowed, we find that two pitchers have had three straight such starts.

You know one well: Randy Johnson for the 1997 Seattle Mariners.

The other you’ve likely forgotten: Damian Moss of the 2002 Atlanta Braves.

Moss’ streak came in three starts against the Marlins, Brewers and Phillies in July and August.

It’s an odd one in one respect, given that Moss was not a power pitcher (he averaged only 5.6 strikeouts per 9 innings), but maybe not so much in another, considering he had two other starts of seven or more innings and two or fewer hits that season.

After the streak ended, Moss only pitched 231 more major-league innings, in which he had an ERA of 5.34. He was never able to regain the magic he showed during that amazing run.

If we go a step lower, to seven innings and one run AND one hit or fewer, we run into 15 pitchers who have managed to do that twice in a row since 1920, including eight since 1999.

Harvey makes that list, encompassing his last start of 2012 and first of 2013 (seven one-hit innings against the Padres). The last pitcher before him was Harvey’s ex-teammate, R.A. Dickey, who threw back-to-back one-hit complete games last June.

But you don’t necessarily have to be a Cy Young winner or a young phenom to make the list.

You can be on it if you’re an all-time great like Johnson (2001 Diamondbacks) or Pedro Martinez (2002 Red Sox), but the other four since 1999 are an eclectic collection of middling moundsmen- Ron Villone (1999 Reds), Freddy Garcia (2006 White Sox), Vicente Padilla (2009 Rangers), and Daisuke Matuzaka (2011 Red Sox).

If you’re a baseball historian you know the last one on our list. Only one pitcher has gone back-to-back appearances of seven innings or more, with no more than one run and NO hits allowed: Johnny Vander Meer of the 1938 Reds.

Vander Meer is the only pitcher in major-league HISTORY to pitch consecutive no-hitters, doing so against the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Vander Meer's run is celebrated throughout history for its one of a kind status.

Harvey’s isn’t quite as good, but it’s still pretty nice to be one of a kind.