For three innings Friday night, Matt Harvey hardly could have been better. Nine Marlins up, nine Marlins down, six by strikeout.
Fears of a "dead arm" after his poor previous outing seemed dead wrong. Hopes of a special night at Citi Field began to take root.
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But Dee Gordon bunted the second pitch of the fourth inning toward third base for a clean single. Bunting to break up a perfect game or no-hitter late in the game is taboo under baseball's unwritten rules, but what about in the fourth inning?
Even if Harvey wasn't annoyed, the tiny hit and Gordon's base-stealing ability seemed to unnerve him. After Gordon stole second, Harvey walked Martin Prado and, one out later, gave up a three-run home run on his first pitch to Justin Bour. The Marlins scored another run in the next inning and held on for a 4-3 victory before 33,880.
"I think you get a guy on like that who can obviously steal at any time, you've really got to mix up your looks," Harvey said. "Maybe I didn't do a good enough job with that. I tried to keep him off second, so maybe to Prado I obviously didn't quite get locked in as I should."
Harvey (5-3, 3.11) allowed four runs, six hits and a walk in eight innings, striking out 11. He threw 105 pitches, the last one clocked at 96 mph.
Still, Harvey was outpitched by Dan Haren (5-2, 3.03), who gave up two runs in seven innings. Haren allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four.
Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson homered and Daniel Murphy had an RBI double for the Mets, who had won three in a row. The Marlins had lost three straight.
Harvey was coming off the worst outing of his career. Last Saturday in Pittsburgh, he gave up seven runs in four innings in an 8-2 loss to the Pirates.
"Nobody's more frustrated than I am about the last two outings," Harvey said.
Said manager Terry Collins: "He hasn't been very happy this week."
One reason might be that Collins on Sunday said he thought Harvey might have been going through a "dead arm" period.
Harvey, who did not address the comment until Friday night, said: "Using that word for people is kind of alarming. I didn't feel like I was dead. I just got out of my mechanics."
Harvey struck out the side in the first on 10 pitches. Nine were strikes. None of the fastballs was below 97 mph.
Unfortunately for Harvey, the lefty-swinging Bour hit a slider into the seats in right for a 3-0 Miami lead in the fourth.
"I leave a pitch over the middle trying to throw a slider back door," Harvey said. "Kind of spun over the middle and cost us -- cost me -- the game."
Duda homered to right leading off the bottom of the inning. It was his ninth of the season and sixth in his last seven games.
In the fifth, Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Haren. Harvey struck out Gordon but Prado punched an RBI single to left to make it 4-1.
Granderson hit his sixth home run leading off the sixth and Murphy's one-out bloop double to left in the ninth made it 4-3. But A.J. Ramos (third save) struck out Michael Cuddyer and got Wilmer Flores on a squib to first to end it.