After shaky beginning, Harvey finishes strong

Righty takes step forward in 5-inning outing vs. Reds

After shaky beginning, Harvey finishes strong

NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey didn't take the mound Thursday night looking like a superhero, but he left it five innings later feeling like some of his powers could be slowly coming back.

You could see it happening, even over the course of his 74-pitch outing in the Mets' 7-2 win over the Reds. You didn't see the Dark Knight of 2013 or '15, but you saw a pitcher beginning to believe he has put the worst times behind him.

Harvey allowed two runs on five hits in his second start back from the disabled list, and he got credit for his first win since May 28. He only struck out one, and he topped out at 96 mph on a night the radar gun showed mostly 93s, but what was most important Thursday didn't fit in a box score.

This was more about how Harvey looked, and how a pitcher shorn of his confidence by injuries and poor performance might just see some of that bravado return. You could even see it in Harvey's face after the game, a sense of calm after some sense of normalcy returned on the mound.

"For me, it's definitely a step in the right direction," he said. "Getting through that fifth inning was a sigh of relief. I'm not where I want to be, but I'm getting there. I know it's going to take time. It's been a rough two years. I wasn't expecting to go out there in my last start or even this one feeling totally confident, but overall, this was much better than I've experienced the last two years."

It was certainly far better than his return from the DL last Saturday in Houston, when Harvey allowed seven runs in just two innings against the Astros.

This start began a little better, but still not great. Harvey walked the first batter he faced and was somewhat fortunate to get through a 25-pitch first inning allowing just one run. He gave up another run in the second inning, but retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced and finished with three consecutive scoreless innings.

There were some hard-hit balls, for sure. There were only two swings and misses, one of them by the opposing pitcher.

Collins on Nimmo's monster game

But as Mets manager Terry Collins watched from the first-base dugout, he saw improvement over the course of the game.

"All of a sudden as the game went on, I felt like his mechanics were getting better," Collins said. "As his strength comes back and his arm speed comes back, we're going to see some signs Matt Harvey is on the way back."

It's a long road, for sure. Harvey missed a good part of last season, when he needed surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Thursday's start was just his 15th this season, having missed nearly three months with a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder.

The 74 pitches Thursday were the most Harvey had thrown in a game since June 9.

"We're moving in the right direction," he said. "The swings and misses will come. The velocity will come."

He's not all the way back. He didn't claim he was. But in the long process of getting back, this may well have been a significant step.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.