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Wednesday afternoon Orioles game thread: at Mets, 12:10

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In which the Dark Knight makes his first start at Citi Field since 2018, and Mets fans are freaking out.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For many baseball fans, this is just Game No. 37 of 162 on the season: a random 12:10 pm Wednesday matchup in a random two-game series between two teams who don’t see each other very often.

For Matt Harvey, this is the first time in three years that he takes the mound at Citi Field, a place he pitched for six seasons. The last time, Harvey was a one-time ace struggling with injuries whom the Mets had moved to the bullpen. Eventually, the team issued him an ultimatum that he’d be demoted to the minor leagues. Harvey refused the assignment, and on May 4, 2018, the Mets DFA’d the right-hander before managing to scrape out a trade for him with Cincinnati. Suffice it to say, it’s been rough sailing for Harvey since then. That is, until February 2021, when a well-timed visit to a pitching facility in New Jersey helped retool his arsenal and land him a tryout with the pitching-strapped Orioles. So far, it’s been a surprisingly successful partnership for both.

Judging from Twitter, many Mets fans seem to be freaking out over Harvey’s return to the mound: The Dark Knight is back! The Dark Knight is dead! It must be exhausting to be a Mets fan.

I hope it’ll be a triumphant start for Harvey. Perhaps the best thing going for the right-hander right now—besides an effective new two-seam fastball and improved control since his injuries—is the Mets’ struggling offense. Granted, a lot of major-league offenses are struggling right now, but the Mets, who fired hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater last week, are clearly disappointed with their performance thus far. The loss of Robinson Canó for the season on a PED suspension, and All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor’s .200/.323/.276 slashline thus far definitely haven’t helped. A collective batting average of .236 is actually average in the majors right now, but their team WAR of 2.9 is 24th-worst in the league, just above… well, the Baltimore Orioles.

The Mets are starting Taijuan Walker, who, along with Marcus Stroman, is a former AL hurler having a good year so far in the NL East. In six starts totaling 34 innings, Walker has a 2-1 record, a 2.38 ERA and 35 K’s. According to MLB.com, the velocity on all five of his pitches (that’d be the fastball, slider, sinker, splitter, and curveball) has increased this season. The Orioles as a team have seen a bit of Walker since he debuted with Seattle in 2013, but not many on this current Orioles team: Ryan Mountcastle has just four at-bats against him (and zero hits); Chance Sisco and Rio Ruiz are 0-for-3 against Walker; and Pat Valaika is 1-for-2.

It looks like it’ll be a tall task to topple Taijuan. But if ever there was a sentimental reason for the bats to bust out for some run support, it would be today. Some Orioles offense, plus a solid outing by Matt Harvey on what must be a very emotional start for him, would make this a very awesome Wednesday, indeed.

Let’s go O’s!

Orioles lineup

1. Cedric Mullins CF
2. Austin Hays RF
3. Trey Mancini 1B
4. Ryan Mountcastle LF
5. Freddy Galvis SS
6. Maikel Franco 3B
7. Rio Ruiz 2B
8. Chance Sisco C
9. Matt Harvey P

Mets lineup

1. Jonathan Villar 3B
2. Francisco Lindor SS
3. Michael Conforto RF
4. Pete Alonso 1B
5. Dominic Smith LF
6. Kevin Pillar CF
7. José Peraza 2B
8. Tomás Nido C
9. Taijuan Walker P