Matt Harvey envisions himself joining elite company someday. Recently, the 24-year-old Mets phenom spoke about his goal of growing into a pitcher capable of throwing 240 innings per year. In the last 10 years, only 13 starting pitchers have reached that summit. And only four -- Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Livan Hernandez and Justin Verlander -- have done it more than once.
But for Harvey to get there, he must learn how to withstand the rigors of the season's grueling homestretch, how to respond when his talented right arm rebels against his drive to pitch on, how to get by when he's tired.
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And Saturday, in the Mets' 3-0 loss to the Tigers, Harvey endured another learning moment.
"Everything's a learning process," said Harvey, who was tagged for a career-high 13 hits in 62/3 innings but allowed only two runs. "I've never been through this before. So obviously paying attention to it and figuring out ways to move past it is all part of learning and growing as a ballplayer."
For most of the year, Harvey has made it easy to forget that he's in his first full season as a major-leaguer. As such, he's never been asked to push through the finish line. But the Mets intend to avoid shutdowns for Harvey and fellow rotation phenom Zack Wheeler, hoping that grinding through the season's final month will help in the developmental process.
"We're seeing the effects of his first full season up here where it's a grind," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Not that it prevented Harvey from scrambling to keep the Mets in the game. In a matchup of All-Star Game starters, Harvey limited the Tigers to two second-inning runs -- a quality start. Yet when asked to evaluate his outing, he called it "crappy" and "poor."
It would have been good enough to win plenty of games, but he was matched against Max Scherzer, who blanked the Mets for six innings to push his record to 19-1. Scherzer walked a season-high four batters but fanned 11 and allowed only three hits as the Mets were shut out for the fifth time.
Even from the dugout, Collins could spot signs of fatigue in Harvey.
Entering play, opposing hitters had batted .447 against Harvey after he threw the 101st pitch of a start. But as Collins noted, the Tigers took healthy swings from pitch No. 1, hitting .406 against him before chasing him in the seventh.
In the first inning, Collins watched Harvey hang a few sliders, another indication that he is navigating uncharted territory.
"It's just so uncharacteristic of him," Collins said. "Especially early in the game when he's got all the energy going."
Of course, Harvey can be forgiven if his energy level isn't the same. Last season, he logged a career-high 1691/3 innings between Triple-A Buffalo and the big leagues. After Saturday's start, Harvey pushed his total to 1781/3 innings.
"This is what makes the major leagues so hard compared to Triple-A, that little extra stretch of September, those extra 30 games you play, 35 games, or whatever it is," Mets catcher John Buck said. "You learn how to pitch through that, when you don't really feel particularly at your best. But I think that's when you learn the most about yourself as well."
Harvey admitted that he has been "pretty tired."
"Everybody goes through it, and it's a matter of going through it and figuring it out," Harvey said. "I haven't done a good job of that and I've got to turn things around and figure it out."