BY JOE RINI
If Matt Harvey is a team’s worst starting pitcher, how bad can things really be? Well, if we’re talking about the Harvey of 2015, with his 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189 innings, not bad at all. Unfortunately, the 2016 Harvey has been bafflingly bad with an ERA in excess of 6.00 in losing seven of 10 decisions, and after being battered by the Washington Nationals twice in five days, he might be out of the Mets starting rotation for at least one start.
Mechanical issues with his delivery, the hangover effect of his heavy workload in 2015 following Tommy John surgery, and even confidence issues have been offered as explanations for Harvey’s early season struggles. Prior to Harvey’s start against the Nationals on Thursday May 19, manager Terry Collins thought the adrenalin flow of facing division rivals and their ace Stephen Strasburg would benefit Harvey. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be the worst outing of Harvey’s career when he was knocked out of the box and booed off the field after allowing nine runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings in a 9-1 Nationals victory at Citi Field.
I asked Collins about Harvey’s struggles after Thursday’s game and he said people have high expectations for this young pitching staff and when they struggle and people wonder, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong…I’ve tried to explain to Matt and others, this is when you have to have the most patience…they’re still very young…they’re just learning how to get through tough times…but when you see confidence banged up, it needs to get fixed.”
Harvey’s defeat marked the sixth loss in seven games for the Amazins dropping them to third place and 2 ½ games back. However, they rebounded to sweep the Brewers over the weekend and take game one from the Nationals 7-1 on Monday behind Bartolo Colon in Washington to climb within ½ game of first place. Harvey’s subsequent start in the second game against the Nationals on Tuesday started off well with three scoreless innings but consecutive home runs in the fourth inning wiped out a 1-0 lead and three more runs in the fifth inning ended Harvey’s night, a 7-4 Nationals victory.
Following the game on Tuesday, Collins did not guarantee Harvey’s next start. “We’ve got to think what’s not just best for Matt, but what’s best for us moving forward at the moment,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of things to consider. We’re not going to make any rash judgments tonight. We’re going to sleep on it, and talk about it tomorrow.”
Prior to last Thursday’s game, I caught up with new Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker while he re-connected with friends and acquaintances near the visiting team’s dugout. The 66-year old veteran manager said he hadn’t really thought about whether he’d manage again before taking this job and when asked about the similarities between managing superstars Barry Bonds and Bryce Harper at different stages of their careers, he said, “Both have great vision.”
Chatting with Curtis Granderson about his slow start and lack of walks, he said pitchers have been challenging him more this season so it’s up to him to do something when they give him a pitch to hit otherwise he won’t draw many walks. Subsequently, Grandy has a modest three game hit streak with a home run in recent days, so maybe a streak is in the offering.
The Mets enter play on Wednesday in second place with a record of 26-19, 1 ½ games behind the Nationals. After a quick trip to Washington this week, the Mets return to Citi Field this weekend to play the Dodgers where the Mets will honor members of the 1986 World Championship team on Saturday.