It feels like only yesterday we were all gaping at Matt Harvey’s naked form and knowing what’s best for him in regards to his training. These days, all we we’ve been able to do is shake our heads in despair.
But wait! The Mets’ former (and possibly future) ace has two good starts behind him now! If he logs a third one today against the Brewers, then according to the rules of baseball, the phantom’s curse that has been haunting him for months will be lifted, making him a good pitcher again. The stakes have never been higher!
Harvey certainly seems to have righted his season after a dreadful opening eight weeks. Before the recent rebound, opponents were hitting .330 and Harvey had a 1.69 WHIP in his first 10 starts. There had even been internal discussion about whether to temporarily bounce Harvey from the rotation, including the merits of a demotion to the minors.
It's been a rough ride for Harvey. By May 25, all those high pitch counts, low velocities, and sixth inning exits had people talking. A five-inning, five-run start against the Nationals in which he allowed three home runs saw his ERA climb over 6.00. The New York Post was ready to trade him. Oh, wait, that’s from last November. Here’s the column blasting Harvey because he hurt the press’ feelings by not wanting to talk to them.
The joke, of course, is that any of this would be remotely surprising by now. The Mets have abided by the Harvey Rules from Day 1, have tread lightly around him, have allowed him the kind of leeway and latitude that should never be afforded someone with 75 career starts, no matter how promising he used to be.
So why wouldn’t he duck and run now?
And here’s the Post praising Harvey, calling him “a big galoot” (because they have a playful relationship, you see) following one of his recent successes.
It came to a head when Mets fans booed Harvey off the field on May 19, as he exited a game in the third inning, having already given up nine runs. It was after that game that even Bryce Harper could sense that something was wrong, and sent Harvey his sympathy, which I’m sure was appreciated.
People weren’t sure if he’d just lost his mojo or contracted the yips; if maybe he rushed his rehab to be back for the 2015 season after missing 2014 recovering from Tommy John; if it was some minor tick in his mechanics that was throwing him off or tipping his pitches. Whatever it was, the Mets tried to help by holding simulated games for his benefit, and Harvey pushed through, putting together a pair of starts against the White Sox (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) and Marlins (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) that had him looking more like his old self.
Now, for that magical number three.
Today, Harvey faces another lukewarm-at-best squad, the Milwaukee Brewers, in hopes that this can become a three-part story. Did you know Harvey has never pitched against the Brewers before? Isn’t that weird?
Some are saying that Harvey’s heater being on the upswing, jumping from an average of 94 m.p.h. to 95.3, has been the key to his success. It doesn’t sound like much, but the opponent batting average in his last two starts (.192) shows vastly more success than his previous ones (.336). Should Harvey have regained his momentum, the 28-32 Brewers have the kind of lineup that’s susceptible to aces getting their grooves back.