A dark night was a fitting end to a tumultuous week for the Dark Knight
Normally, when Matt Harvey leaves a baseball game, its met with disappointment and second guessing of the manager for such a decision.
Who would have thought Harvey’s exit was just what the Mets needed on Tuesday night in Washington?
Harvey’s outing certainly capped a surely regrettable week for the right-hander and his agent, Scott Boras, in which their unnecessary, untimely and self-induced distraction put Harvey in a tenuous and awkward position ahead of the biggest start of his career on Tuesday.
And his own manager admitted the chain of events might have affected Harvey in this start, in which he matched a career-high seven runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings.
“I think he was trying to show everybody he was who he is, and I think he overthrew a little bit, to be honest,” Terry Collins opined after the game. “You look at the replays and he missed a lot of spots because he was trying too hard. It’s human nature.”
It wasn’t terribly unexpected this start would represent the very distraction which he and his agent caused over the last week, and it wasn’t unexpected it affected his mental preparedness ahead of that start.
As Collins said, he’s only human, much to everyone’s dismay.
He allowed two runs immediately in the first inning, another run in the second inning, and melted down in the sixth inning.
He allowed the first three Nationals to reach base in the sixth inning thanks to a single to Yunel Escobar, a walk to Clint Robinson, and then his own bumbling of a sac bunt off the bat of Ian Desmond in which he bobbled the ball and threw to third too late to nab Escobar.
Then he allowed a single to Michael Taylor which cleared the bases thanks to Yoenis Cespedes taking his eye off the groundball, allowing it to roll 400 feet away from home plate.
In the end, seven runs were in, and it was a dark night for the Dark Knight.
He was throwing way too many fastballs early, almost as if he was trying to get ten strikeouts with every pitch. What has made Harvey so great in the three years he’s been with the Mets is his ability to offset his blazing fastball with his 91 mph power slider, change-up, and now his new curveball which he’s been able to pinpoint on each side of the plate throughout the season.
But early on in this one, Harvey abandoned that approach, instead trying to power through the Nationals lineup and missing his spots as a result.
“Everything felt good,” Harvey said. “I just left, obviously, way too many pitches over the middle of the plate, and they got a lot of contact and the balls went through. Overall, my body felt fine. My arm felt great. Obviously, it’s not the outcome I would have liked.”
But what was really unfortunate – early on anyway – was the discussion during the telecast and on social media was about Harvey and the drama surrounding him, rather than the challenge at hand for the team and a game which meant the difference between allowing the Nationals into the pennant race and keeping them on the outside looking in with 24 games to play.
Fortunately, his team bailed him out from this poor start thanks to a tremendous six run rally in the seventh inning, and the capper from Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the eighth inning, along with another stellar performance from the bullpen.
The relief corps has tallied 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the first two game of this series.
Again, perhaps Harvey’s exit was the healthiest outcome for the Mets on Tuesday. Everything changed – the energy, the momentum, the mentality, and yes, the discussion.
If it was Harvey’s last start of the regular season – and if the final series of the season is meaningless, it very well might have been – it was not the way for someone clearly concerned about his own brand and reputation would want to be remembered in what became a very controversial return in 2015.
But Harvey will be ready for whenever it’s decided he will start again, whether it’s next week or next month.
“Whenever they’re ready, I’ll be ready for it. And whatever they decide moving forward, I’m ready, and I’ll make sure I’m ready,” Harvey said.
If only he had answered these questions like this on Saturday. Now the Mets are tasked with finding a way to keep Harvey sharp for whenever that start takes place.
The baseball world and his own fanbase are angry with him. Not so much for being concerned about his health and long-term well being but for how he went about the choices he’s made throughout the recovery process. Everyone understand his competitive nature, his will to win and carry the team on his shoulders every fifth day, and competition and adrenaline can sometimes cloud better judgment not just for Harvey, but for anyone in any environment.
But this is where Harvey failed. Instead of letting his logically sound and unemotional bosses make necessary decisions to preserve him and ensure he can be healthy not just throughout the 2015 season, but in the years to come, he routinely defied their plans – both publicly and privately – ultimately putting himself and his team in a very awkward position where they could only fail.
Is he at fault for being concerned about his health?
Were he and his agent wrong in the way it was portrayed and the timing of that display? Absolutely.
But people make mistakes. Again, he and his agent are only human. Such a mistake could easily have compromised Harvey and his team the rest of the way, however.
But perhaps in a sign of growth and a lesson possibly learned, Harvey stood up in front of the media and aired what hopefully mattered most to him in an effort to right his own personal ship.
“Ultimately, we won the game and that’s huge. I think we’re all excited about that,” he said smiling on Tuesday night.
There is no I in team, but there is a we, and during a time Harvey has to work to prove he is part of the royal we, this is a good start.
Time heals all wounds, eventually. Winning heals them quickly, however.
And despite these trying times, it’s still better Harvey is a Met than not.