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Harvey's 5-inning start has ripple effect on 'pen

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- It is important to remember, the Mets like to say, that Matt Harvey is still less than a year removed from a relatively rare procedure to remove a rib, freeing compressed nerves near his shoulder. The Mets have long harbored an expectation that Harvey would need time to mold back into form.

But while Harvey is relearning his craft on the fly, the Mets are bearing the weight of his struggles. The former ace's inability to complete six innings Friday forced the Mets to cobble together a dozen outs from their overworked bullpen, which once again wasn't up to the task in New York's 12-7 loss to the Pirates at Citi Field.

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NEW YORK -- It is important to remember, the Mets like to say, that Matt Harvey is still less than a year removed from a relatively rare procedure to remove a rib, freeing compressed nerves near his shoulder. The Mets have long harbored an expectation that Harvey would need time to mold back into form.

But while Harvey is relearning his craft on the fly, the Mets are bearing the weight of his struggles. The former ace's inability to complete six innings Friday forced the Mets to cobble together a dozen outs from their overworked bullpen, which once again wasn't up to the task in New York's 12-7 loss to the Pirates at Citi Field.

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"Right now, it seems like we start a game and we're not sure what we're going to get," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's not a real good feeling."

The script for this game did not vary from so many of Harvey's past outings, indicating that his previous start -- one run in six innings against the same Pirates team he faced on Friday -- was more an aberration than an indication of genuine improvement. From his initial pitches, Harvey was wild, walking two of the first three batters he faced. Though he briefly recovered during the early innings, Harvey served up a three-run double to light-hitting backup catcher Elias Diaz in the fourth inning, then proved unable to record an out in the sixth.

Video: PIT@NYM: Diaz clears bases with double off the wall

"I wasn't able to execute when I got ahead of guys, and wasn't able to put them away," Harvey said. "A good-hitting club like that, you've got to be able to do that."

Harvey's final line: six runs in five-plus innings, on five hits and four walks. For the fifth time in seven starts, Harvey issued at least four free passes, saying afterward that he had no explanation for his lapses in control. For the fourth time in those seven outings, he did not record an out in the sixth. Harvey owns a 7.25 ERA over that stretch, with 29 strikeouts and 27 walks in 36 innings.

He is not, in other words, giving the Mets chances to win games on a regular basis.

More than that, Harvey has become one of the primary culprits of a Mets staff averaging a shade over 5 1/3 innings per start. The Mets have relied on their relievers, in turn, for an average of more than 11 outs per night. And the results have not been pretty.

Since May 10, the Mets' 5.54 bullpen ERA ranks last in the National League.

"We know that they're having trouble with their bullpen," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "However, you've got to get the starter out."

Almost universally, teams have been able to do that to the Mets, compounding Collins' bullpen woes. The Mets manager tried to push Harvey through the sixth inning despite his high pitch count, knowing how many tired arms resided on his bullpen bench. Then he used Paul Sewald for an ugly eight-batter stretch, despite Sewald's obvious lack of his usual crispness. The effects will almost certainly leak into Saturday, with both Sewald and Neil Ramirez now likely unavailable.

And still the Mets press onward, desperate to improve a pitching staff that was supposed to be a strength.

"These are the guys that have to get it done," Collins said. "They have track records of getting it done. They've got to step up. When you need them, they've got to rise."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Matt Harvey