NEW YORK (AP) – All of a sudden, Matt Harvey’s postseason debut contains an extra layer of drama.
Wouldn’t seem normal any other way.
With the New York Mets still steamed about a late slide by Chase Utley that broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg, Harvey is set to start a pivotal Game 3 on Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first playoff contest at Citi Field.
Whether the Mets will see Utley anytime soon was uncertain. Major League Baseball on Sunday night suspended the second baseman for Games 3 and 4, with executive Joe Torre calling it an illegal slide.
Utley appealed the suspension, but a hearing was not completed Monday. That meant he was eligible to play in Game 3, and it’s unclear when the hearing may take place.
Hours before the penalty was announced, the natural question was whether Harvey would retaliate against Utley or perhaps some other Dodgers hitter.
”I think the most important thing is going out and doing my job and doing what’s best for the team. For me, in my mind, that’s going out and pitching a long game and being out there as long as I can, and keeping zeros on the board,” Harvey said. ”But you know, as far as sticking up for your teammates, I think being out there and doing what’s right is exactly what I’m going to do.”
The first thing he needs to do is show up on time.
Harvey missed a mandatory workout last week and apologized after arriving late. The misstep drew a curt comment from Mets captain David Wright and the latest round of criticism for a star pitcher who is constantly in the headlines for one reason or another.
The next could still be his latest showdown with Utley, a thorn in the Mets’ side for more than a decade while he played for NL East rival Philadelphia.
The 36-year-old Utley has a part-time role with the Dodgers after they acquired him Aug. 19. But before the ban was handed down, manager Don Mattingly said Utley might start Monday because of the lefty-righty matchup and his good numbers against Harvey (6 for 18 with a homer).
”He will definitely be a possibility,” Mattingly said Sunday evening.
The best-of-five NL Division Series is tied 1-all after Utley’s takeout slide swung Game 2 in Los Angeles, keying a four-run rally in the seventh inning Saturday night that sent the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory.
”Obviously the replay, everybody saw that it was more of a tackle than anything,” Harvey said. ”We’re all feeling for Ruben. We’re going to pick him up, and we’re excited to be back at home.”
Mattingly said Utley tried to reach out and apologize to Tejada, who will be replaced at shortstop by Wilmer Flores. Matt Reynolds, a Triple-A infielder who has never played in the majors, was on his way to New York as a potential addition to the roster.
Harvey already has a history with Utley, who angered the Mets with a rough slide into Tejada back in September 2010. During his first home start this season, the right-hander nailed Utley in the back with a 95 mph fastball after Phillies pitcher David Buchanan plunked Flores and Michael Cuddyer, both on the left hand.
”I think history has kind of shown that he’s kind of been in situations like that before,” Harvey said Sunday. ”I know personally, after watching in 2010 and hearing about it with Ruben as well, you know, there’s some situations that need to be taken care of. I think the league is going to do their best to do that and take charge.”
With retaliation on everyone’s mind, there is some thought MLB might instruct umpires to warn the Mets and Dodgers before Monday’s game about throwing inside.
”I would personally hope that there wouldn’t be such an issue, only because the impact it would have on the entire game itself, would change the way the game’s supposed to be played,” New York manager Terry Collins said. ”In the game of baseball, we do ask our pitchers to pitch inside once in a while, and the last thing we need is an umpire to take the games into his hands where he thinks it was on purpose. … And all of a sudden to create a mess that certainly wasn’t intended.”
Mattingly sees it the same way.
”You do want it to be about back to the field,” he said. ”I know it’s fun to talk about all this stuff, and you hear about it all, and it gets a lot of attention, but I’m sure it won’t go away.
”I don’t think there needs to be any kind of warnings. Just let the game play,” he added.
Left-hander Brett Anderson gets the ball for Los Angeles after going 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA in his first season with the Dodgers. Anderson tossed six shutout innings of two-hit ball to win his only previous playoff start for Oakland in 2012 against Detroit.
NOTES: Mets rookie LHP Steven Matz (back) threw off the main mound at Citi Field and will start Game 4, Collins said. … LHP Alex Wood or LHP Clayton Kershaw (on three days’ rest) will pitch Game 4 for the Dodgers, Mattingly confirmed. … Neither team worked out at Citi Field (which opened in 2009). The Mets landed in New York about 8:15 a.m. after an overnight flight from Los Angeles. The Dodgers slept at home and flew across the country Sunday. … Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA this year in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. … Reynolds could become the second player since the first World Series in 1903 to make his major league debut in the postseason, according to STATS. Mark Kiger did it for Oakland in 2006.