Even when he's off, Harvey still good
NEW YORK -- If this was the bad Matt Harvey, the Mets' seemingly fully formed young ace is going to have an awfully good career.
Harvey didn't have his best stuff or command on Wednesday, and he still pitched an effective 6 1/3 innings. He took a no-decision, allowing four runs in a 7-4 loss to the Reds, and was a couple of mistakes away from his final line looking a lot better.
If that counts as not having it, then the second-year hurler's prospects are every bit as bright as they've seemed to be for the past nine months or so.
"That's going to typify the kind of kid he is," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "The days that he has his good stuff, it's going to be easy. The other times, he's going to still keep you in the game and give you a chance to win, which he did today."
Two pitches to two very dangerous hitters doomed the youngster. On a 3-0 count with a runner on and one out in the third inning, Harvey threw a fastball over the plate to Joey Votto, who is almost certainly the best hitter in the National League. Votto, who for all his reputation as a patient hitter is happy to paste a fat 3-0 pitch, jumped all over it.
The ball hurried out to the opposite field for a 2-1 Reds lead. Collins suggested that perhaps there was a lesson in the pitch -- that perhaps discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to facing Votto with a 3-0 count.
That concept, however, does not seem to carry much weight with Harvey. Be it Votto or anyone else, he's going to throw a strike and take his chances. In Harvey's mind, he just needed to throw a better strike.
"I'm not going to give in to anybody," Harvey said. "Regardless. That's not really who I am. I'm not afraid to throw to anybody. I just didn't make my pitch. I needed to be better."
Harvey said that the equation doesn't change even the slightest when he's not at his best. And that's part of what makes him so much fun to watch and so easy for fans to love. Harvey has no interest in nibbling around the edges of the strike zone, not even on a somewhat shaky day in a hitter's count against a former NL MVP Award winner.
The second costly pitch was merely a location mistake. Harvey had worked the outside of the strike zone for most of the day against Brandon Phillips, aware that Phillips is especially dangerous on down-and-in pitches. The Cincinnati second baseman saw a steady stream of sliders away, mixed with the occasional fastball in for variety.
But with a full count, two on and one out in the seventh, Harvey tried to come in on Phillips one more time and missed his spot. Phillips poked it for a run-scoring single to left, ending Harvey's day.
"It was a 3-2 count and runners were on," Harvey said. "Obviously, I didn't want to walk him. In that situation, I had to get in, and I didn't do that."
Aside from that, there was a lot of hard work, but there weren't a lot of bad results for Harvey, which says a lot about what he's capable of. He frequently worked with runners on base, but only twice allowed those baserunners to turn into runs.
It says something about Harvey's stuff that even on a day like this, it was good enough to generate 11 swinging strikes. It says something about his poise that he didn't divert from his game plan.
Harvey fell behind often, throwing first-pitch strikes to fewer than half of the hitters he faced. Yet he still only issued two unintentional walks, and in half the at-bats where he threw a first-pitch ball, it was the only ball of the at-bat.
The young righty wasn't happy, and he shouldn't be expected to be. In the big picture, this was a game with plenty to like. Either way, Harvey is not going to be dwelling on it.
"Throw it away, just like a good start," Harvey said. "I've got five days to prepare for my next start, and obviously, I've got some work to do, get back to throwing to my spots. That's about it. I'm not going to completely change what I've been doing. I'm going to do my normal bullpen [session], get my lifts in. After tomorrow, it's go time. It's time to prepare like any other start."
That next start may be the highest-profile one of his young career. Harvey will pitch Tuesday night against the Yankees, and Citi Field will be raucous. If he is on, he'll be very, very good. And if Harvey is not, he probably will still be pretty decent.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.