We are in the age of pitch counts and Matt Harvey continues to labor in that area for the Mets. However, this time he did what good pitchers must do, which is to minimize the damage and parlayed that into a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Cincinnati.
Harvey stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in making by far his best start of the season.
The Reds had a run in and a runner in scoring position in the first, but Harvey struck out the next two hitters. Harvey was also in a bases-loaded-one, one-out jam in the third, but he struck out Eugenio Suarez and got a sparkling defense play from Neil Walker to save him at least two runs.
Harvey entered the game with hitters batting over .500 against him with runners in scoring position, but the Reds couldn’t break through despite the constant threatening. This is what winning pitchers do.
Harvey’s moment of truth came in the fifth when the Reds pulled within 3-2 and had runners on the corners. Harvey got out of it by getting Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning.
Harvey got the double play on his 88th pitch of the game and that raises an issue.
In his first three starts – all losses – Harvey made it through the sixth only once, but threw 83, 95 and 86 pitches. Harvey won his fourth start, but needed 101 pitches to work just five innings.
The Mets had to like Harvey’s ability to escape, but they – and the pitcher – can’t be happy with his high pitch counts and inability to go deep into games. Harvey finished with a flourish, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth, ending the inning with his seventh strikeout on his 102nd pitch.
Overall, this was a positive step forward by Harvey. The pitcher Harvey wants to be realizes 102 pitches is too many for six innings. That many should get him through the eighth and into the ninth.
METS GAME WRAP
Game: #20 Record: 13-7 Streak: W 6
SUMMARY: Harvey needed a scintillating defensive play by Neil Walker to save him a couple of runs and a homer from the second baseman to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.
KEY MOMENT: Cincinnati had a run in on Zack Cozart’s homer leading off the game, and later had a runner on second with one out and were poised to do some serious damage, but Harvey regrouped to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Mesoraco to end the threat.
THUMBS UP: How can you not love Alejandro De Aza tagging up and taking second on a fly out in the first? It resulted in the Mets getting two runs. … After making a diving stop of Mesoraco’s liner to end the third and save a couple of runs for Harvey, Walker homered in the bottom of the third. … Michael Conforto’s two-run double in the sixth. … Another strong inning in relief by Jim Henderson with two more strikeouts.
THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s high pitch count limited him to six innings. … Errors by Lucas Duda and Walker. … Only five hits by Mets’ hitters.
EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes got another night off after telling Collins his right leg was still sore. … With the victory, the Mets are now 5-4 at home. … Harvey is 3-0 in five career starts against the Reds. … In case you were wondering, Philadelphia beat Washington to cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.
QUOTEBOOK: “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.” – Walker explaining his power surge.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Homers by Walker in April to tie a club record. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead.
NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday and open a three-game series Friday against the Giants at Citi Field. … The starters are: Friday, Jake Peavey (1-1, 6.86) vs. Steven Matz (2-1, 5.40); Saturday, Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54); and Sunday, Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).