ANAHEIM -- After posting a 9.64 ERA through his first four starts of the season, Angels right-hander Matt Harvey has started to show some signs he’s righting the ship.
Harvey wasn’t perfect against the Royals, as he surrendered two runs on four hits and four walks over five-plus innings, but it was enough in a 5-2 win over the Royals on Friday night at Angel Stadium. It helped Harvey lower his ERA over his last five outings to a more respectable 4.05, which gives him a 6.35 ERA on the year.
“I still wish I was able to go six, seven innings the last couple starts and keep the bullpen from coming in so early, but overall, we’re going in the right direction,” Harvey said. “So that’s the positive and that kind of makes you feel good about the work you’ve been doing. Obviously, there was no room to really go the other way so I had to kind of figure it out. The last couple have been pretty good.”
As Harvey noted, he’s still bothered by his inability to pitch deep into games, as he’s only reached seven innings once this season (vs. the Royals on April 28) and has averaged just over five frames per outing. He said he even had a meeting with the club’s other starters over the weekend in Minnesota about stepping up their game, and namely their innings total.
"We realized we really got to step it up," Harvey said. "Just figure out how to get deeper in the game and keep the bullpen from coming in so early. It’s a long season. Keep using these guys this early, it’s going to be tough. We got to go out there and figure out how to get six, seven innings."
Harvey cruised early, retiring eight of the first nine batters he faced, before running into his first jam in the third, allowing a pair of two-out singles. But he got Adalberto Mondesi to weakly ground out on a first-pitch curveball to end the inning.
Harvey ran into trouble again in the fourth, putting two runners on with two outs, but again escaped further damage by getting Martin Maldonado to fly out. He was helped by a double play in the fifth on a strikeout/caught stealing and came back out for the sixth having thrown 80 pitches.
Harvey was allowed to face the heart of the Royals’ order, but gave up back-to-back walks to Mondesi and Alex Gordon on a combined 11 pitches and was removed for reliever Justin Anderson. Anderson nearly got out of the jam unscathed, but later surrendered a two-out single to Ryan O’Hearn to bring home two runs that were charged to Harvey.
“I think that was I was trying to be too fine,” Harvey said. “Once you fatigue a little bit and realize that, I was just trying to nitpick instead of just going after them. That’s another frustrating part. You get 0-2 on the leadoff guy and you walk him, that changes the whole second at-bat.”
Angels manager Brad Ausmus liked what he saw from Harvey early, but said with a fresh bullpen he decided it was time to make the move with Harvey at 91 pitches.
“He did a really good job of locating his pitches,” Ausmus said. “Early on, he got some strikeouts on the location of his pitches. I thought it was a good outing."
Harvey did show some positive signs, striking out six and registering seven swings and misses with three coming on his curve, three on his slider and one on his fastball. Harvey said his fastball hasn’t felt quite right this year, but he topped out at 94.7 mph on Friday. The issue, however, is he's struck out just 34 batters over 45 1/3 innings this season. But that rate has started to improve with 18 strikeouts over his last 20 2/3 innings, including two strikeouts with the curve on Friday.
"It was probably the best it’s been all year, pretty consistent in the zone and was able to bounce a few when I needed to,” Harvey said. “I’m still waiting for the fastball to come around, but having the secondary pitches working, it’s kind of what’s getting me by."