NEW YORK -- The real Matt Harvey re-emerged on a Memorial Day Monday afternoon at Citi Field, sparing the Mets a least that little bit of anxiety moving forward.The defending National League champions are already playing without their regular first baseman (Lucas Duda), third baseman (David Wright) and are back
NEW YORK -- The real Matt Harvey re-emerged on a Memorial Day Monday afternoon at Citi Field, sparing the Mets a least that little bit of anxiety moving forward.
The defending National League champions are already playing without their regular first baseman (Lucas Duda), third baseman (David Wright) and are back in the offensive doldrums.
But there is good news. All the recent angst about the 27-year-old right-hander seemed to dissipate in seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball as the Mets squeezed by the White Sox, 1-0, on the strength of Neil Walker's 12th home run.
Harvey is by no means over the hump, he and his manager Terry Collins said after the game. But there certainly was major progress.
"I think this is a first step," Harvey said. "Obviously what I did here today isn't going to mean anything if I don't continue it the next time I pitch and stay with what I've been working on. It's a work in progress. I'm just happy I was able to go out there and feel comfortable in my mechanics and get the job done."
Duda is out for at least six weeks with a stress fracture in his lower back. And the Mets will know more about Wright's condition after he sees a doctor on Tuesday. But it doesn't sound good. Wright hasn't played since Friday night against the Dodgers because of persistent neck pain.
Collins said he's concerned that the team's captain could again land on the disabled list. Wright missed four months last season after learning he had spinal stenosis in his lower back, a chronic problem he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. Collins said the two injuries are unrelated, but you never know.
One thing Collins does know: "I know this guy plays with a lot of discomfort. He always has. And when he can't play, he's hurt," the manager said. "So I'm concerned about it."
Collins has been equally concerned about Harvey's idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, during a string of three losses in a row in which Harvey had allowed 19 runs -- 16 of them earned -- on 27 hits in 13 2/3 innings for a 10.54 ERA.
Harvey, now 4-7 with 5.37 ERA, left for a pinch-hitter in the home half of the seventh inning after Walker gave the Mets a one-run lead to open the inning. In the top of that inning, Harvey had pitched unscathed out of a second and third, one-out jam when Todd Frazier popped out foul and J.B. Shuck grounded to short.
Collins said he loved seeing Harvey's exaltation as he came off the field after that half inning. And the crowd of 38,339 gave him a rousing ovation.
"I felt a lot of emotions," Harvey said. "It's been awhile since I've been able to go out there and hold them from scoring a ton of runs. The idea is to do everything you can to help the team and I felt like I wasn't doing that very well. Today, to go out there in a one-run ballgame like that and be able to put up zeros, was very exciting for me."
It was the type of game the Mets expect out of Harvey and Harvey expects to pitch.
During the first six innings, Harvey pitched to the minimum 18 batters. The only scar from those innings was a solid line single to right by Shuck -- called up before the game -- with one out in the fifth. Shuck was immediately erased when Duda replacement Wilmer Flores laid out on a Brett Lawrie line drive, turning the almost certain hit into an inning-ending double play.
Without that play, the outcome might have been a lot different.
"That was huge," Collins said. "The way things are going that ball goes off his glove, trickles into right field and they get runners at first and third [and] have a big inning going."
Instead, Harvey struck out six, walked one and didn't even go to a full count on any hitter he faced until Alex Avila worked him to the limit with one out in the sixth. Avila grounded out.
Harvey's fastball velocity at times was in the high 90s and he was constantly ahead in the count, absorbing the changes he made in his continuity and arm slot that he's been working on for days in the bullpen.
"It's one thing if you throw three good ones in a row and then throw a clunker. That goes with the territory," Collins said. "I think today is one big step. Look, he feels good about it. He feels good about the way he threw the ball. Now we've just got to build on it and stay as positive as we can.
"Get back out there and repeat it. And if he does that, no matter what the end results are, I think we're on the right track."
Harvey worked through seven innings for the first time in this season's 11 starts. It was the longest he's gone since pitching into the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series with a 2-0 lead against Kansas City here this past Nov. 1 before the Mets lost the game and Series in 12 innings to the Royals.
The performance was in stark contrast to the way he has pitched this season. What happened?
"I'm not sure," Harvey said. "I've been wondering the same things. It's part of the reason why you start thinking a lot of different things."
Now with this success it's time to move on to other issues. For Harvey, what a difference a few days and some real work makes.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.