NEW YORK -- The ballpark may have been different, the deficit smaller, the team on the other side not quite so formidable, but on the one-month anniversary of Matt Harvey's Opening Night start against the Royals, it was difficult not to notice that little has changed. Harvey is still struggling to retire batters in the middle innings, struggling to win games, struggling to rediscover his dominant form of old.
"I'm giving up more hits, more runs, more everything than I ever have," Harvey said after allowing three runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Braves. "Obviously, it's frustrating."
Save for some slightly improved velocity, Tuesday's stat line almost exactly mirrored the one that Harvey submitted Opening Night. In the four weeks since, he has worked tirelessly to fix a series of mechanical issues that both he and pitching coach Dan Warthen feel have undermined his season.
So far, nothing has worked, prompting some within the organization to ponder whether Harvey's 2015 workload -- a career-high 216 innings between the regular season and playoffs in his first year back from Tommy John surgery -- may be having a lasting effect.
"We say the same thing once in a while about Jake deGrom," manager Terry Collins said. "We want to know where his velocity's at. We want to know where [Jeurys] Familia's stuff's at. … I don't have all the answers, except that not everybody's going to be good every night. As it starts to get a little bit nicer, a little bit warmer, maybe then we'll make a determination if the arm strength's going to come back, or if it's just going to be one of those years that due to all the innings last year, we're going to see the effects of it."
Collins' comments marked the first time a Mets official has publicly echoed the fears that Harvey himself voiced last September, when he initially hesitated before committing to pitching in October. It's the type of hangover effect the Mets came into this season fearing from all their starters, but to date, only Harvey has consistently struggled. His 4.76 ERA through six starts is by far the highest of anyone on New York's staff, while his four losses are more than the Mets' other four starters combined.
Compounding things Tuesday was the fact that Harvey was battling a minor illness; he received fluids before the game but afterward deflected every question about that aspect of his health. Harvey was indeed spry enough to work out of jams in each of the first three innings before Mallex Smith homered in the fifth and the Braves chased Harvey with two additional runs in the sixth.
"My body doesn't feel bad," Harvey said. "I don't feel tired. I don't feel any downside from the workload last year. It's just right now, I'm in a little funk with my mechanics, and we're working to get rid of that."
The sooner Harvey does, the quicker the Mets can move on from this mini-crisis enveloping their former best pitcher. The longer it lingers, the more concerned his team will grow.
"I'm not even going to think about steps forward and backward at this point," Harvey said. "I'm putting in so much work during the week that maybe I'm doing too much. Maybe I'm not. At this point, there are a lot of questions and a lot of answers I'm looking for."