Harvey turns in solid start, but lead slips late
Mets squander advantage in eighth, allow walk-off homer in ninth
SAN DIEGO -- Since May 22, Matt Harvey has produced a 2.67 ERA in 108 innings, striking out 113 batters and walking 17. Those statistics define him as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
But Harvey's personal win-loss record over that span is 4-4. As little as that might matter to today's process-oriented evaluators, it matters to players. So it mattered to the Mets that they could not hang on to give Harvey a victory in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Padres, which Will Venable ended on a walk-off homer in the ninth.
"Is he frustrated? Of course he's frustrated," manager Terry Collins said. "He's a human being."
Harvey's contribution to the game was of his usual quality: six innings, two runs, six strikeouts, zero walks. He would have stuck around longer had a run-scoring opportunity not surfaced in a tie game in the seventh, prompting Collins to replace Harvey with pinch-hitter Andrew Brown.
The move did pay dividends; Brown smashed a double to center to give the Mets a one-run lead. And by limiting Harvey to 86 pitches, Collins now has the option to bring his ace back on regular rest Friday against the Tigers.
But the Padres battled back with a run in the eighth inning off Gonzalez Germen, before Pedro Feliciano escaped a bases-loaded jam with two outs to keep the game tied. Between innings, pitching coach Dan Warthen asked Feliciano if he had "one more batter" in him, eyeing a lefty-lefty matchup for the white-hot Venable.
It wound up being the only batter that mattered. Venable reached below the strike zone to golf a 1-2 slider well out of Petco Park, delivering the Padres a four-game series split.
"I thought I had him 1-2 when I threw a slider," Feliciano said. "But he's pretty hot right now, and he went down and got it out."
Sourness resulted for a group of Mets that seemed in control early, taking a 2-0 lead off Padres starter Eric Stults on Marlon Byrd's RBI double and Wilmer Flores' sacrifice fly. But Harvey cracked for two runs in the fifth on Venable's softly hit infield single, which tipped off the pitcher's glove, and Alexi Amarista's sacrifice fly.
Though Brown's go-ahead double two innings later put Harvey in line for his 10th victory, his afternoon quickly darkened into a no-decision.
"That's been happening quite a bit," Harvey said. "Obviously a start like today, I needed to go out and not give up runs like I did in the fifth inning. If I don't do that -- if I make that play in the fifth and we're up 2-1 -- maybe I'm still in the ballgame. Going seven, eight, nine innings is ideal."
It has been happening more than quite a bit for Harvey, who ranks among the National League's least-supported starting pitchers. The Mets are scoring 3.68 runs per game for Harvey, who holds a 2.42 ERA in his 12 no-decisions. Those statistics have translated into a 13-12 record for the Mets in Harvey's starts.
"He's a guy who wants to win every game," Collins said. "There's not a guy that I've been around that's got better makeup and competes. Of course he's frustrated. But he also knows he has no control over that. He only has control over getting outs, and for the most part he's done his job all year."
Harvey may soon be stripped of his opportunity to do even that, given the innings shackles wrapped around him in his first full big league season. Early Sunday afternoon, Harvey officially surged past the 169 1/3 innings he compiled over two levels last year; the Mets will only allow him to exceed that number by approximately 40.
That translates into five, maybe six more starts for Harvey, who may move up in the rotation to take injured teammate Jenrry Mejia's spot Friday. Five, maybe six opportunities for Harvey to tack some wins onto his ledger. Five, maybe six more chances for the Mets to give their ace some support.
"That's baseball -- we could have gotten this one, but we lost," Feliciano said. "We've just got to go out and be ready for tomorrow."