LOS ANGELES -- The problem with trying to cap Matt Harvey's innings this season has been simple.
He has been too good. More often than not, he has pitched deep into his starts, giving the Mets a chance to win virtually every time he has taken the mound. It's why manager Terry Collins sounded less than enthusiastic as he discussed the joyless task of handcuffing phenoms such as Harvey.
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"That's obviously the hottest part of sitting in this chair, taking them out of the game when they're pitching good," Collins said. "They're mad, fans are mad, you guys are mad, it's a big story, everybody's angry. And in four years, when they're still pitching and they haven't had an injury, nobody says 'geez, nice going.'''
But Collins faced no such quandary in the Mets' 4-2 loss to the seemingly unbeatable Dodgers, who subjected Harvey to one of his roughest outings of the season.
The 24-year-old righthander was finished after giving up four runs and eight hits in just six innings. He had only three strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Mets managed only Juan Lagares' first inning solo shot off Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-3), who is unbeaten in his last seven starts.
Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers have lost only three games. And in that same period, they have led the National League in runs (121), average (.296), on-base percentage (.356) and slugging (.431).
"It will be fun to see him out there and obviously you talk about challenges he's faced this year, nobody's been hotter than these guys," Collins said before the game. "So, he's got a huge challenge ahead of him."
In his previous 26 starts, Harvey had 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, when the Dodgers ended it.
The Dodgers missed just five of Harvey's pitches, twice in the first inning, and not again until Ryu batted in the fifth.
For four innings, Harvey staved off trouble, relying on his fastball to keep the Dodgers off the scoreboard. He used double plays to help wiggle out of the second, third and fourth.
Harvey missed with a pair of sliders and then with a fastball before stepping off the rubber to compose himself against Yasiel Puig, who would have the green light on 3-and-0. Harvey reared back and threw a fastball over the heart of the plate. The Cuban sensation grounded to second base.
But Harvey offered telltale signs that he was not at his best. For instance, since his start at the All-Star Game, Harvey had struck out 31 batters, walking only one. That astounding ratio meant little against the Dodgers, when Harvey issued a pair of walks, an indication that he lacked his typical command.
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 to put the Mets behind 2-1.
The Dodgers kept the pressure on in the sixth, when A.J. Ellis lined a two-run single, upping the Mets' deficit to three. It wasn't long before Harvey began his slow walk back to the dugout, where Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen waited to pat him on the backside.
The decision had already been made. Harvey was finished for the night. It wasn't a particularly difficult decision.