Matt Harvey dominated again, but had to find a way to win

Michael Baron, Contributor

Matt Harvey has primarily dominated with his fastball in the early part of his career – he has thrown them 57 percent of the time over his first 19 career starts – but he needed to get crafty and turn to something else in order to win yesterday’s game.

Matt Harvey 1 polaroidHe did so yesterday and allowed two runs and five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA – Harvey retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced, and ended six of his 7 1/3 innings with strikeouts.

“They were being pretty aggressive, so we started a few of them off with some curveballs and changeups to get them off of his heater,” John Buck said.

Harvey also drove in the decisive run with a two out single in the seventh inning to score Rick Ankiel.

“You can’t say it enough: [Harvey] a different animal,” Terry Collins said after yesterday’s game. “He’s not your run-of-the-mill young pitcher. This guy has got some savvy, he’s got great confidence and he knows how to pitch. He just doesn’t have a great arm.”

Early on, he was throwing mostly fastballs, but while he was struggling with the location of that pitch, the Cubs were being aggressive early in the count and squaring up on him. But after throwing 39 pitches through two innings, Harvey changed the program and started using his change-up, slider and curve to setup his fastball, and he dominated for the remaining 4 1/3 innings throwing his fastball only 42 percent of the time.

To me, what differentiates him from so many other young pitchers is his baseball intelligence. His entire repertoire is both intimidating and dominating – he knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. But, as he showed yesterday, he has an ability to read the opposition’s approach against him, understand and effectively adjust off of it inning-by-inning. In doing so yesterday, that’s both more impressive and more important than putting on a show by flirting with perfection – in all probability, meaningful games in the playoffs or postseason aren’t going to come down to no-hitters – they’re going to come down to overall execution, but also an ability by the starting pitcher to continue to adjust, persevere, and win games. Harvey has already shown he has the physical and mental talent to do that, and he’s only 19 starts into his career.

That’s the thing: The great ones not only have the talent, but the acuity, awareness, and understanding of how to get hitters out when either they’re off their game or the opposition is adjusting to them. It’s the mark of an ace and an established veteran, and Harvey quickly becoming a popular star in this game for being this kind of pitcher.