Chicago — The legend of Matt Harvey is growing almost as quickly as the size of tonight's Powerball drawing.
Even an 18-year veteran like LaTroy Hawkins has been caught up in Harveymania.
As the Mets' young star was meeting with the media on Friday after his pitching and hitting led to a 3-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, a smiling Hawkins decided to serenade Harvey.
"I can pitch, I can hit, I can sing," said Hawkins, putting himself in his younger teammate's shoes. "I'm so, so talented."
That's not a stretch. Shrugging off giving up two-first inning runs, Harvey improved to 5-0 with 7 1/3 innings of impressive pitching. And, oh yes, Harvey singled in the winning run in the seventh inning.
"He doesn't just have a great arm," manager Terry Collins said.
Harvey means more than that to the Mets. He's their every fifth day of sunlight in a season that's already had too many bleak days for them.
Except this day didn't start off well for the boy wonder, even though a David Wright homer gave him a 1-0 lead before he threw his first pitch. The Cubs roughed him up for two runs and three hits, with a throwing error by Ruben Tejada tacking on the second run to Alfonso Soriano's RBI infield single.
Harvey was not happy. But he channeled his anger and changed his pitching approach.
"They came out swinging," Harvey said. "I started pitching them backwards a little bit."
Instead of a steady diet of fastballs, he began throwing more curves ("I had my curve ball working pretty well") and change-ups.
"It's pretty unusual for a young power pitcher to do that," catcher John Buck said. "When things aren't going right he can adjust and not get rattled."
Harvey's adjustments were near-perfect. He retired 21 of the last 23 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts and no walks.
He didn't stop there. After a fourth-inning homer by Daniel Murphy off Cubs starter Edwin Jackson, Harvey came to bat in the seventh with two outs and Rick Ankiel, who had hit a one-out double, on second base. Earlier in the season, Collins admitted he would have pinch-hit for Harvey, but given that the Mets had scored only six runs for him in the four consecutive previous no-decisions, he stuck with him.
Harvey made his manager look him a genius, with a single into left that scored Ankiel.
"After my miserable second at-bat (a strikeout in the fifth inning), I just wanted to put something in play," said Harvey.
The anxiety wasn't over. After Darwin Barney began the eighth with a check-swing single and was sacrificed to second by pinch-hitter Julio Borbon, Collins lifted Harvey after 106 pitches. Southpaw Scott Rice's job was to retire lefty-swinging David DeJesus, but the former Rutgers star rapped a single to right. Marlon Byrd, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter an inning earlier, charged the ball and easily threw out Barney at home.
"When you do throw it and you see where he is, you're shocked," Byrd said.
The Cubs were shocked after Greg Burke, recalled from the minors earlier in the week, induced a ground out by Starlin Castro to end the eighth and Bobby Parnell, whom Collins wanted to restrict to one inning because of his recent workload, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save in as many days.
While the Mets are afforded an opportunity today to add to their two-game winning streak, which is a rarity these days, many of their fans can't wait until Harvey's next start, against Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field.
Hawkins is already working on some new material. The legend of Matt Harvey continues to grow.