NEW YORK -- The Dark Knight has risen again.
And so has Bobby Parnell.
Matt Harvey, the New York Mets' current ace, and Parnell, the team's former closer, are both coming off Tommy John surgery. And they teamed up on a memorable night in Queens, leading the Mets to a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Harvey threw seven shutout innings against the Blue Jays' high-powered offense. And Parnell came to the rescue with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, preserving the Mets' lead and ultimately earning a five-out save.
"Matt Harvey's back, and Bobby Parnell's back," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And if those continue, this is gonna change the dynamics of what we get to face in the next three months."
Harvey had already proven he could look like his old self, opening the season 5-0 after his first five starts. But he had hit a rough patch of late, losing three of his past four outings and giving up eight home runs during that span.
It was a different story entirely Tuesday night. Harvey was dominant from the get-go, allowing just four hits in his seven frames, with six strikeouts and no walks. His fastball was in the mid-to-high 90s, as usual, but it was his off-speed pitches that made the biggest difference. In fact, Harvey recorded 10 outs with his changeup, the most in his major league career (credit ESPN Stats & Information).
"I think pitching a little backwards was something that needed to be done," Harvey said. "Throwing the changeup to righties to keep them off the fastball was big, and definitely helped the outing. I really just tried to work on mixing everything up. And later the fastball was more where I wanted it, I was able to locate that on the outside corner and throw that for a first-pitch strike."
Harvey exited after seven innings with a 3-0 lead, his pitch count having risen to 107. The Mets were shorthanded in the bullpen -- closer Jeurys Familia was unavailable after pitching more than one inning each of the past two days. Collins handed the ball to Carlos Torres in the eighth, but he was ineffective, departing with the bases loaded and one out. That set the stage for Parnell, who made his season debut with the Mets only three days ago.
The task was even more daunting than that -- sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were the first two hitters Parnell was due to face. But Parnell limited Bautista to a sacrifice fly, gave up an RBI single to Encarnacion and then struck out Chris Colabello to keep the Mets in front, 3-2 -- about all you can ask from Parnell in that situation.
Collins sent Parnell back out for the ninth inning, and he retired the Blue Jays in order for his first save since July 30, 2013.
"It felt good," Parnell said. "Definitely had some adrenaline going. It was definitely a fun time to pitch. That ninth inning's always good."
Parnell's velocity isn't all the way back -- he used to hit 100 mph with his fastball regularly pre-surgery. But he's come a long way, and he looked like a more complete pitcher Tuesday, as opposed to just a power arm.
"He made pitch after pitch," Collins said. "Kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, worked the corners, used his two-seamer, hit 95 on the (radar) gun. It’s gonna come, we just gotta give him a little time. But he showed you tonight that he knows how to pitch."
We all expected Harvey to bounce back and regain his early-season form. But Parnell's performance Tuesday will come as a surprise to many. Familia has established himself as a good closer, currently tied for third in the National League with 19 saves. But the Mets still don't have go-to guy in the eighth inning.
With Parnell's experience closing, he could be the perfect fit if he can continue to pitch like this.
Speaking of pitching, it's worth noting what the Mets as a whole have done the past two days. The Blue Jays arrived in the Big Apple as the hottest team in baseball -- winners of 11 in a row, averaging eight runs per game in that time.
The Mets put a stop to that, limiting Toronto to five runs in two games, thanks primarily to Harvey and fellow up-and-comer Noah Syndergaard. Most importantly, New York came away with two wins.
"We’re not trying to send messages," Collins said. "We’re just trying to win games. We think we have a nice team. We think that when we are healthy, we can compete with anybody. And I think the first two games showed that we can."