PHILADELPHIA -- Terry Collins leaned back in his chair, reached into his black laptop bag and fished out a white envelope marked "in escrow.'' Inside was the $250 that the Mets' manager had collected from his rising young star, Matt Harvey.
The pitcher incurred the fine for arriving late to the ballpark before a recent game. But as part of a deal, Collins offered to refund the money Monday night as long as Harvey tossed seven scoreless innings.
He came close. In a 7-2 victory over the Phillies in which the Mets bullied a clearly weakened Roy Halladay, Harvey allowed one run in seven innings even though he struggled with his command.
He pitched well, so well that after the game, Collins tried to give him his money back. He refused.
"I gave up a run,'' Harvey said. "I told him I didn't want it. I didn't live up to what was going on.''
Harvey, 24, didn't look as sharp as he did during his impressive season debut last week. Still, he stopped the Phillies and struck out nine.
Betrayed by his fastball command, Harvey leaned on his sharp slider and curveball, throwing both to fight back after falling behind in counts. It worked well enough to keep the Phillies from ever threatening.
"It just tells you what quality stuff can do,'' Collins said.
Harvey's raw talent popped even more when juxtaposed to Halladay, the 35-year-old former ace in the midst of what might be his descent from the ranks of the elite.
Since joining the Phillies from the Blue Jays in 2010, Halladay had started eight games against the Mets, going 7-0 with an ERA of 1.78.
In an era of pitch limits and loaded lineups, he once led his league in complete games for five consecutive seasons, simply by relentlessly challenging hitters.
Before the game, Collins spoke of Halladay in the reverent tones befitting a two-time Cy Young Award winner, an eight-time All-Star and the author of both a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter. But after the game, even Collins faced the current reality.
"That's not Doc,'' he said. "That's not the guy we know.''
In improving to 5-2, the Mets touched up Halladay (0-2, 14.73 ERA) for seven runs in four-plus innings, his second brutal outing of the season.
At his best, rarely did Halladay allow opponents the satisfaction of getting ahead in the count. Against the Mets, though, Halladay paid a heavy price for falling behind.
John Buck, who entered the game as a career .182 hitter against Halladay, tagged him for a three-run homer on a 2-and-0 cutter that hovered over the heart of the plate in the second inning. Buck drove it halfway up the stands in rightfield. So began the rout of Halladay.
And Harvey moved to 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA although he left $250 on the table.
"I think [Collins] was going to double it if I went nine,'' Harvey said. "I was trying.''
Collins intends to keep the money for now. Perhaps Harvey will get it back for greater feats down the road. But until then, it will remain in the envelope, waiting to be opened. If Harvey keeps this up, it won't be long.
Said Collins: "Accruing interest.''