CHICAGO -- Reds pitcher Matt Harvey spent six smooth innings not only shutting down Cubs hitters in his start on Friday, but also besting the National League's hottest pitcher in Cole Hamels -- someone who has generally owned the Reds over his career.
It took one inning for Harvey's handiwork to be undone. Following his scoreless effort, David Hernandez allowed Ian Happ's three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh that led to a 3-2 Cincinnati loss at Wrigley Field.
"I thought Harvey was outstanding. We didn't hit because he was good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon praised.
Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman knew it was a tough call for him to lift Harvey for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh when he had 96 pitches and had retired his last eight batters in a row.
"As a manager you make those decisions. That didn't go well," Riggleman said. "It's kind of in that in-between area. If I send him back out there and anybody gets on, I'm going to take him out. I felt like we would be better off letting David starting an inning clean, and it just didn't work out."
Over his past seven starts, Harvey is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA. He has completed six innings in each of his past three starts.
Harvey, who scattered four hits with one walk and six strikeouts, threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 batters he faced. According to Statcast™, his fastball averaged 95.1 mph and topped at 96.6 mph, but that wasn't all the right-hander had in his bag of tricks. He also effectively threw his slider, changeup and curveball and racked up 14 whiffs and 17 called strikes.
"I think the big thing was being able to mix pitches for a strike and really throw whatever I wanted to," Harvey said. "That was the first time in a long time that all four pitches were kind of doing exactly what I wanted them to. The big thing was just getting ahead. These guys, for the most part, are pretty aggressive and obviously are a tough lineup, so you really have to stay sharp. Fortunately enough, I was pretty sharp tonight."
Harvey's toughest jam of the night came in the bottom of the fourth, when he had two batters on with no outs. David Bote grounded to second baseman Scooter Gennett, who started the 4-6-3 double play. Hamels followed with a strikeout, and Harvey was away clean.
"That was definitely a big boost, and created some more adrenaline and energy for the rest of the game," Harvey said.
Hamels entered the game 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA and one home run allowed in eight starts (50 2/3 innings) since his trade from the Rangers to the Cubs. He also entered 11-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 16 career starts vs. Cincinnati -- including a complete game Aug. 23.
In the fourth inning, Jose Peraza and Joey Votto slugged back-to-back homers against Hamels that gave the Reds a 2-0 lead.
"Ever since [Hamels] has come over here, his ERA and what he's done is pretty incredible," Harvey said. "That adds to being really fine and being mentally focused as much as you can through their lineup and then trying to keep them guessing. It was nice to get those runs and it was a good start, obviously not the way we wanted it to end."
Harvey could have used a few more runs and the chances were there, but the Reds were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight on base. The opportunity to add more in the fourth-inning rally came when there were runners on the corners and one out. Curt Casali hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop, where Javier Baez fired a throw home that was offline. Running home on contact, Eugenio Suarez took a late slide as Victor Caratini dove back to apply the tag for the out. Cincinnati opened the fifth and sixth innings with consecutive singles and couldn't cash in.
"He made the necessary pitches to get out of it. Certainly, we've got to add on there, but that's why his ERA is 1.5 or whatever it is. He knows how to pitch out of trouble," Riggleman said.
Harvey kept up his end of the deal as he kept holding Chicago down. It was the first time he's worked six innings in three consecutive starts since 2016 with the Mets. With the arm injuries that dogged him in New York fully behind him, he's found his groove.
"I'm starting to really feel good," Harvey said. "It's kind of coming at a good time, I guess you can say. I'm just trying to go out and compete and do everything I can to help this team win. Things are coming out good."
After he posted a 7.00 ERA in eight games -- including four starts -- for the Mets, Harvey is 7-6 with a 4.13 ERA in 22 starts for Cincinnati after his May 8 trade for Devin Mesoraco. A free agent at season's end, his rebound with Cincinnati this season could increase his value.
"I think a he's guy that is getting better as he gets further away from his surgeries," Riggleman said. "Who knows, he might be better yet next year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Happ beats Hernandez: Hernandez took over in the seventh and Caratini led off with a single. Bote hit a grounder to third that took a tough hop on Suarez and was muffed for an error. Two batters later with one out, Happ lifted a 1-0 pitch for a three-run homer to left-center field to snap his 0-for-14 slump.
"Just trying to get ahead, fastball away, and he just put a good swing on it," said Hernandez, who's been solid all season with a 2.65 ERA and only six homers allowed over 57 2/3 innings. "I guess the ball was carrying out to left tonight, but he still hit it pretty well."
HE SAID IT
"From 1 to 9, they're so good. You really have to bear down and stay mentally focused. I've enjoyed pitching in this ball park." -- Harvey, on the Cubs. He is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts vs. Chicago this season.`
Left-hander Cody Reed is still chasing his first victory as a big league starter and will try again at 4:05 p.m. ET Saturday when the Reds face the Cubs and Jonathan Lester at Wrigley Field. In 15 career starts, including four this season, Reed is 0-8 with an 8.01 ERA. He allowed three earned runs, five hits and three walks with five strikeouts over a four-inning no-decision during Cincinnati's 10-6 win over the Dodgers on Monday.