LOS ANGELES - Matt Harvey's impeccable command stems from a refined sense of self awareness. He knows himself so well that he senses his own imperfections. Adjustments come quickly.
But nobody is perfect. There will be nights when even Harvey can't get in sync, can't find a rhythm, can't save himself. And when those nights come against a team as charmed as the Dodgers, the results are predictable.
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"The whole time was kind of a struggle," said Harvey, who was roughed up Tuesday night in the Mets' 4-2 loss at Dodger Stadium.
The 24-year-old righthander was finished after giving up four runs and eight hits in six tortured innings. While his fastball blazed at 99 mph, Harvey failed to throw his lethal slider for strikes. He deemed his curveball, his next best alternative, to be "loopy."
"I just couldn't locate anything," Harvey said. "When I tried to go in it was over the middle. And when I tried to go away I was yanking it."
Juan Lagares lined a first-inning solo shot off Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu. But it was the only damage the Mets managed off Ryu (12-3), who tossed seven strong innings to remain unbeaten his last seven starts.
Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers are 22-3. In that same period they have led the National League in runs (121), average (.296), on-base percentage (.356) and slugging (.431).
"Certainly, you've got to play a perfect game to beat them right now," Collins said. "And we're not doing that."
Tempting perfection has been Harvey's specialty. But against the Dodgers, it was clear that he lacked his best stuff.
In his previous 26 starts, Harvey (9-4) recorded at least 10 swings and misses. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the longest active streak in the majors until Tuesday night. The Dodgers missed just five of Harvey's pitches, twice in the first inning.
Harvey finished with three strikeouts -- his lowest total of the season and tied for the lowest of his career.
For four innings, Harvey staved off damage. He used double plays to help wiggle out of the second, third and fourth. The last one came when he got Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig to offer at a 3-and-0 fastball.
Harvey missed with a pair of sliders and then with a fastball before stepping off the rubber to compose himself against Puig, who had the green light. Harvey reared back and threw a fastball over the heart of the plate. Puig grounded to second.
However, it was a rare moment of control for Harvey, who sensed even in the bullpen before the game it might be a rough night. Even in warmups, he could feel that he rarely repeated his delivery, the key to his pinpoint command. None of his adjustments worked.
Since his start at the All-Star Game, Harvey had struck out 31 batters, walking only one. But that astounding ratio meant little to the Dodgers. Harvey issued a pair of walks, another indication that it wasn't his night.
The real trouble began for Harvey with one out in the fifth, when he walked A.J. Ellis and allowed a single to Juan Uribe, which set up Nick Punto's two-run double that rattled around the corner in leftfield.
With the Mets already behind 2-1, the Dodgers kept the pressure on in the sixth, when Ellis lined a two-run single. The hit upped the Dodgers' lead to 4-1. It wasn't long before Harvey began his slow walk back to the dugout, bringing an end to his rough night.
Said Collins: "He's human."