Rough sixth inning sinks Harvey in return

Rough sixth inning sinks Harvey in return

MILWAUKEE -- After Matt Harvey threw a quick and clean fifth inning Friday, Mets manager Terry Collins had a conversation with pitching coach Dan Warthen.

The two came to agreement that Harvey had another inning in him despite battling command issues, requiring 97 pitches to grind through five innings.

But what could have been a somewhat successful outing after a tumultuous week filled with off-field drama quickly turned for the worse.

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Harvey was unable to get through the sixth in his first start back after serving a three-game team suspension for an unexcused absence, allowing a leadoff single to Keon Broxton before consecutive home runs to Eric Sogard and Orlando Arcia.

A 2-2 game was suddenly a 5-2 deficit in what turned out to be a 7-4 loss for the Mets.

"This guy is one of our top pitchers," Collins said. "We have to get six innings out of him. I thought after the fifth inning he was really starting to get it down. I thought it would be really good if he could get us through the sixth. He just didn't do it."

After a 10-pitch first, Harvey needed 34 pitches to work through the second. He allowed a run but escaped a bases-loaded jam by fanning Eric Thames.

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Harvey continued to grind in the third and fourth, limiting any further damage to a solo home run by Hernan Perez.

Then came the fifth, when the right-hander tossed his first clean frame. The Mets tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth before Harvey went back out. Following an infield single by Broxton, Harvey hung a 2-0 slider to Sogard, who was just recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday.

Four pitches later, a pinch-hitting Arcia found the seats, leaving Harvey's entire night changed in a span of two batters.

"My job is to go out there and keep the game tied to give us a chance to really open things up after that," Harvey said. "I got behind in the count and just left the ball up in the middle of the plate. Pretty much battling behind the count the whole game, and that makes things a lot more difficult."

Since posting a 2.84 ERA over his first four starts, Harvey has struggled. He has a 10.44 ERA (17 runs in 14 2/3 innings) in his last three outings and now has surrendered 10 home runs after giving up just eight all of 2016.

"I think overall, the last three, four starts have been pretty terrible," Harvey said. "So obviously there's a lot of work to be done to get things back on track, which is the main goal right now."

Harvey continued to reiterate he feels he has work to do.

"Just mechanically, just making pitches, being able to get people out in big situations and last deeper into the game," Harvey said. "We'll go back and look at video tomorrow and kind of compare things to the Atlanta game, when I felt pretty good but obviously missed locations, just kind of start from square one."

Even without the fateful sixth inning, Harvey's start would have been notable only for his ability to work out of trouble he created. He struggled with command all night, matching a season high with five walks.

"You feel for him," Collins said. "When you see a guy that has set the bar so high for what you expect out of him, the game is hard. He is coming off surgery, and it is a process to get back."

Just 10 months removed from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, Harvey and the Mets may just have to alter expectations at this point in his recovery.

"I'm always going to have high expectations; that's not a question at all," Harvey said. "But I do realize it's a long season, I've made seven starts, it's still May, we have a long way to go and there's a lot of work to be done but I think I'm pretty close to where I want to be."

Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee and covered the Mets on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.