ST. LOUIS -- The Mets organizational feeling about Matt Harvey was summed up the other day by Terry Collins when he said, "There's not much more that I need to see." That is fortunate because no one is going to see much more of the rookie pitcher, who will be shut down for the season after another start or two.
A 5-1 loss to the Cardinals last night, in which Harvey had just one poor inning, was among his last appearances before the club ends his 2012 to protect his arm. That arm did fine Tuesday night except for a stretch in the second when he allowed four consecutive singles that led to three runs. Overall, he threw 92 pitches and gave up three runs, six hits and three walks. He struck out four in the sort of outing that makes the Mets and their fans want to see more.
Collins said it has not been determined how many starts Harvey will have left, but made assurances that there will not be too many. Harvey's season is being curtailed because the team does not want to overtax him in only his second pro season. The decision is part of a delicate balance the Mets are trying to reach every day.
For credibility's sake, they must show some fight. At the same time, the best commodity they have to sell is optimism about some unspecified day when they will contend again.
Lately, Harvey (3-4) has been their one answer to both goals. He clearly is a cornerstone of the plan to build a solid team around pitching. Also, he has been good enough in his first six weeks to make him interesting to watch.
Even his stumbles can be compelling.
"Dan [Warthen, the pitching coach] and I were sitting on the bench after the three-run inning, saying to each other, 'Now we'll see what we've got here. Let's see if he shuts this sucker down.' And he did," the manager said. "He had to work hard, they have a good offensive club. But you know what, you look up in the fifth inning and it's still 3-0. "I tell you what, he's an impressive guy to be around," Collins said.
Harvey is becoming known around the club for being demanding of himself and true to form, he said afterward, "What I did tonight was, in my opinion, crap. I've got to get quicker outs, keep the pitch count down." As for feeling urgency about the clock winding down, he said, "Whoever makes their decision about my last start, that's their choice. I'm preparing to finish the season."
He did learn about facing a lineup in which the first seven batters are hitting .300. Mets batters, meanwhile, made no dent against lefthander Jaime Garcia (4-6), who allowed only one unearned run. But the night was more about Harvey, and the future.
Reliever Justin Hampson, a veteran called up from Buffalo, said he saw something in Harvey in the minors after a month. "You can see it on the mound. He's got a game plan, he executes," Hampson said Tuesday night. "His baseball knowledge is off the charts and his stuff is right there with it. He's going to be good for a real long time."