It was a slog for Matt Harvey on Sunday, but he won his own personal battle
Not every single Harvey Day is going to be as spectacular as the baseball world expects – or almost assumes – they’re going to be.
In the end, Matt Harvey is going to have his good Harvey Days, his bad ones, and games in which he has to get creative to keep himself and the team in a ballgame.
But even those difficult Harvey Days are usually better than most other days from other starting pitchers.
Such was the case on Sunday afternoon, when the Mets co-ace had to figure out a way to manipulate the Pittsburgh Pirates when he didn’t have the best feel or command of his fastball.
He needed 103 pitches, but Harvey only allowed a run on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts in six innings against the Pirates on a steamy Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.
“[Sunday] was definitely a struggle,” Harvey said after the game.
But Harvey off-set his flat fastball with a great curveball and slider, and even went to his change-up which is a pitch he’s mostly tabled since he re-discovered his slider recently.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, but I’ll tell you what, our starting pitchers battle,’’ manager Terry Collins said about Harvey’s performance. “Matt didn’t give in. He’s still in the sixth inning, he needed to make a pitch. It was 98 mph. It was still there.”
“That’s why I love them. They don’t give in.’’
Harvey knew he didn’t have that good command of his fastball, and he looked pretty spent early on from having to labor through so much traffic against the Pirates. Specifically, he dealt with heavy traffic in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings. They fouled a lot of tough pitches off, worked some long at-bats against Harvey, and made the pitcher think of different ways to get outs.
Outside of a solo home run to Pedro Alvarez – the 14th home run Harvey has allowed to a lefty – Harvey won his battle.
“Having the slider and being able to throw the changeup when I needed to was definitely a help,” he said. “Obviously, they hit some balls hard. But luckily, it was either with nobody on or right at somebody.”
Travis d’Arnaud recognized Harvey’s hardships on Sunday afternoon, but felt he was able to find a better groove in the middle of his outing.
“He found all his pitches as the game went on,” the catcher explained. “So I thought he got better and better as the game went on.”
Unfortunately for Harvey, pitching as well as he did without the benefit of a win has become a far too common occurrence in his outings. He has now made 16 career starts in which he has allowed one or no runs without receiving a win, the most such starts for a pitcher in his first 59 career games in the last century.
But Harvey, like his manager and teammates, chose not to harp on the loss and being swept by the Pirates in their own ballpark, and a building they’ve dominated in throughout the 2015 season.
“It was a rough day, it was a rough series,” Harvey said. “But, we’re still in a good position, and we’re happy where we are. We’ve got to flush this one and move forward.”
And they’ll be moving forward with the Matt Harvey they’ve been waiting two years to have back.
He has worked hard, dealt with some humbling setbacks, made some adjustments to his mechanics and pitching philosophy, but it appears he’s cleared all remaining hurdles in his comeback.
And with his performance, it would appear Harvey is angling himself towards a nomination for comeback player of the year.
He is 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA with 25 strikeouts and one walk in his last four starts, and 5-3 with a 1.45 ERA in his last ten starts. Overall, Harvey is 11-7 with a 2.57 ERA with 141 strikeouts and only 33 walks in 154 innings in 2015.