NEW YORK -- In his first winter as a Met, Matt Harvey chose to stay in New York City, living in the East Village and working out regularly at Citi Field. Each day, he and bullpen catcher Eric Langill would venture to the outfield grass where, enveloped by a silent stadium, they would play catch in the cold.
During those sessions, Harvey often imagined the stands full of people, cheering him as he took the mound. For weeks and months, he waited for such a moment to unfold -- a moment such as Wednesday night, when he pushed aside a wintery cold to submit one of the most impressive pitching performances in recent franchise history.
Harvey struck out 10 and held the Padres to one hit over seven innings, leading the Mets to an 8-4 victory and a 2-0 record.
"This guy is one of the hardest-working guys I've ever seen," said first baseman Ike Davis, who hit one of New York's three two-run homers. "He's exactly what you want a young guy in the future of your organization to be like."
Despite frigid temperatures and a biting wind, Harvey was on point from the start, striking out the first two batters of the game with seven straight fastballs. He fanned four of the first six Padres and five of the first nine, surrendering his only hit on Everth Cabrera's sharp single to center to lead off the fourth.
But Harvey quickly erased Cabrera on a pickoff and faced the minimum number of batters through 6 2/3, striking out nearly half of them.
"It's a good [fastball] and it stays through the strike zone with velocity," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He threw some at the top of the strike zone that we couldn't get to. He didn't throw a lot of secondary pitches. It was all about his fastball."
Lucas Duda gave the Mets some early offense in the second inning, cracking a two-run homer into the second deck in right field. Catcher John Buck added a second two-run shot off Padres starter Clayton Richard in the fourth inning, before Davis topped them both with a two-run blast onto the Shea Bridge in the fifth.
The Mets piled on eight runs (seven earned) total against Richard, who did not make it out of the fifth.
"Anytime they're popping homers out of the ballpark, it's nice to see," Harvey said. "But for me, I still have to stick to my approach."
That approach revolved mostly around a mid-90's fastball, which Harvey supplemented with an effective changeup and a slider clocked as high as 90 miles per hour. Harvey, who has struggled to maintain low pitch counts early in his career, completed seven innings at 94 pitches.
He did so as one of the few Mets in short sleeves -- "in my mind, a jacket doesn't belong on a baseball field," he said -- despite temperatures dipping into the 30s and steady winds exceeding 20 mph. Swaddled in sweatshirts and blankets, the few thousand fans who stuck around were mostly on their feet when Harvey retired Yonder Alonso on a fly ball to end the seventh. It was the pitcher's last act; though Harvey was not due to hit again until the eighth inning, the Mets removed him from a blowout after seven.
With the win, the Mets have outscored the Padres, 19-6, over their first two games. Skepticism remains, of course, considering the Mets won their first four games last year before losing 88 of their final 158. But Harvey's performance gave them reason for genuine optimism on an otherwise dreary night.
It was perhaps a relatively innocuous play in the fourth inning -- Harvey's pickoff of Cabrera -- that best summed his evening. Throughout Harvey's rookie season, Davis teased the right-hander about his sub-par move to first base. Harvey laughed off the criticism but took it to heart, working on that skill and unleashing it on Wednesday.
When his initial throw to first base nearly succeeded, Harvey reloaded with a second attempt to nail Cabrera, the National League's stolen-base leader last season. Such perseverance explains why Mets manager Terry Collins does not balk at the brashness of Harvey, who envisions developing into the best pitcher in baseball.
"You don't just walk around and say stuff like that without being willing to pay the price to do those things," Collins said. "Matt Harvey is willing to do that."