Matt Harvey’s first outing as a relief pitcher didn't give us many answers. In fact, it left us with just as many questions as we previously had.
His two relief innings against the Cardinals looked a great deal like one of his starts: brief flashes of encouragement, but with a bitter aftertaste left behind.
Just after the Mets had tied the score 4-4 in the fifth, Harvey entered and induced a ground ball from Marcel Ozuna and struck out Yadier Molina. Then, with our hopes just high enough that we thought that it was possible he could become a serviceable reliever, Harvey surrendered back-to-back doubles to Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong to give the Cards a 5-4 lead.
According to Fangraphs, his fastball topped out around 95 and averaged close to 93, and both of those numbers are actually lower than his previous two outings. So far, the idea that Harvey can really let loose when coming out of the bullpen has not come to fruition.
Giving up a go-ahead run in your first relief appearance and then refusing to speak to reporters about it after the game is obviously not a great way to ingratiate yourself to your manager and the fans, especially after a demotion with as much fanfare as Harvey’s had over the past few days. Mickey Callaway can say all the right things about how well the former ace is handling the transition, but his actions off the field and most of his actions on speak otherwise.
Still, there are a few bright spots about his outing that were encouraging. Harvey came back out for the sixth and worked around a Tommy Pham walk to escape the inning unscathed, which kept the Mets close enough to tie the game in the eighth inning, and ultimately win it in the 10th.
On top of that, of the 20 strikes Harvey threw, three of those were swinging strikes, and two of those swings were at fastballs. For a player whose fastball has looked so incredibly crushable over the last calendar year, that’s at least a little encouraging. For comparison’s sake, Wheeler had as many swinging strikes in twice as many innings as Harvey did.
It’s still way too early to officially declare Harvey a bad reliever, but we’re going to have to see some improvement in his next outing and a much different attitude if he’s going to stick with this team in any capacity. The experiment is still far from over, but the former Dark Knight continues to flirt with disaster.
Photo credits: Dilip Vishwanat-Getty Images
Paul J. Bereswill