MILWAUKEE — Before the runner had even turned the corner at third base, Matt Harvey knew what to expect. The Mets embattled righthander put his head down, held the ball out to manager Terry Collins as he hurried to the mound.
In his first starts since coming back from a three-game team suspension, Harvey gave up three home runs and was chased with no outs in the sixth inning as the Brewers hit back-to-back shots off the one-time ace and piled on for a 7-4 win over the Mets at Miller Park.
Still reeling from the loss of closer Jeurys Familia to yet another devastating injury, the Mets might have asked too much from Harvey Friday night. But now, for Harvey and the Mets its about managing those expectations.
Friday night, Harvey tried to balance that after the game.
“I am always going to have high expectations. That’s not a question at all, but I do realize it’s a long season, I’ve made seven starts, it’s still May and we have a long way to go,” Harvey said after taking his third loss of the season. “There’s a lot of work to be done. I think I am pretty close to where I want to be.”
Friday he threw 106 pitches, allowing five runs on seven hits. He walked five and struck out six. He labored through the first five innings, falling behind but working out of jams.
Still, the Mets expected him to pitch a sixth, to the bottom of the Brewers lineup. “We could have taken him out at that time but I thought the way he was throwing the ball, we could have got another inning out of him and that really would have been a positive,” said Collins, who had Josh Edgin up in the bullpen in the sixth inning. “This guy is one of our top pitchers and we got to get six innings out of him.”
It was a disappointing end to what was an embarrassing week for Harvey.
After not showing up to the ballpark for Saturday night’s game, the team issued the suspension and let the headlines about him drinking and partying Friday night after being jilted by a model causing his no-show up at Citi Field embarrass him.
He returned from suspension Wednesday to apologize to his teammates, manager and coaches. He publicly apologized to the Mets’ fans.
Harvey did not use that as an excuse Friday.
“No, I felt physically great going into this game, I felt mentally great and I wanted to go out there and do everything I could to put zeroes up on the board,” Harvey said. “I just wasn’t able to do that.”
It’s simply that the Mets and Harvey do not know what to expect from him when he takes the mound now.
This is not the 2013 Matt Harvey who could blow away his critics with his fastball touching 99 miles an hour and pinpoint command. It’s not the 2015 version who came out throwing 100 miles an hour after Tommy John surgery either. After his second major surgery in three years, this time coming back from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the 2017 Matt Harvey is struggling to find himself.
“It’s hard. You feel for him,” Collins said. “When you see a guy who has set the bar so high for what we expect out of him. The game is hard and you’re coming off surgery and there’s a process to get back.”
But Harvey is not the only one around here struggling.
Hours before the game, the Mets announced that Familia was their 11th player to go on the DL after he had surgery to address an arterial clot in his right shoulder. He is the third of the Mets four 2016 All-Stars to go on the disabled list and a huge blow to the bullpen.
Without any help in sight, the Mets would hope they could get their starters, once advertised as one of the best rotations in baseball, to carry more of the load.
Again, the Mets have to manage expectations.
“There’s that hope, but I think we have to be realistic to and look at the rotation we have currently and recognize it’s not what we hoped at the beginning of the year,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. “So it would be foolish for us to say starting pitching has to go deeper. It would be nice if it goes deeper. I don’t think we can count on that consistently over time.”
Right now, the Mets can’t yet expect that consistency from Harvey.