Matt Harvey on an off day is still the best pitcher on the Mets

Michael Baron, Contributor

Matt Harvey clearly was not on top of his game in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the Reds.

Matt Harvey 1 polaroidHarvey allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Reds yesterday, including a home run to Joey Votto. He remains undefeated, but saw his ERA rise to 1.93, good for sixth best in the majors.

“He just didn’t have his good fastball today, yet he continued to battle and battle,” Terry Collins said after yesterday’s loss. “That’s going to typify the kind of kid he is, and the days he has his good stuff it’s going to be easy. But the other times he’s going to still keep you in a game and give you a chance to win, which he did today.”

Collins is correct. Harvey at 60 percent is better than most pitchers in this league. When any pitcher doesn’t have his best stuff, all that can be asked is he get creative out there, adjust, and figure out a way to keep the team in the game. Harvey has shown on a number of occasions he can do that, and that’s going to have tremendous significance when the games get bigger.

As for yesterday’s game, Harvey had trouble commanding his fastball primarily, as he only threw it around 61 percent of time for strikes and it didn’t have that electric bite it has had in his prior starts. That’s normally a pitch he throws around 70 percent of the time for strikes and gets a ton of swings and misses as well. But, while that forced him to work a lot of deep counts, Harvey adjusted and survived into the seventh inning thanks to the command he found with his change-up and slider. He still wasn’t able to dominate with those pitches, but the important thing is he was able to get outs when he needed to with those pitches to strand base runners and limit the damage against the team.

“It was one of those days. I didn’t execute,” Harvey explained. “I didn’t do a good job. I’ve got to be a lot better than that. Nine hits is unacceptable for me. Obviously I wasn’t happy giving up any runs. Today we needed a big win, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

This is what I love about Harvey. He has an expectation for himself which is rigid and focused, and there is no accepting anything substandard to those expectations. He’s here to win, period. He doesn’t buy into the notion of yesterday being, “one of those days.” It’s that relentlessness and bulldog mentality which I’ve constantly referred to since I first saw him pitch at Class-A St. Lucie two years ago, and a rare intangible in players which can be very valuable in more meaningful games.