Matt Harvey keeps raising the bar for himself. The Mets' bullpen is another story.
The young righthander threw another gem Friday night at Citi Field and again came away with nothing to show for it, this time thanks to a bullpen meltdown.
Harvey allowed one run, three hits and no walks in seven innings, struck out 11 and lowered his ERA to 2.00, but what mattered most -- a victory -- again eluded him and the Mets.
Ryan Zimmerman's three-run double off Brandon Lyon with two outs in the eighth inning tied the score, and the Nationals grabbed the lead in the ninth when Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond greeted Bobby Parnell with consecutive doubles.
The result was a 6-4 loss for the Mets, in perhaps the most discouraging fashion, to kick off their final homestand before they host the All-Star Game next month.
Everything in the Mets' world was looking positive when Harvey was on the mound, as is usually the case. The righthander, who continues to evoke memories of a mid-1980s Dwight Gooden, retired the first 14 batters and left after seven innings with a 4-1 lead.
Manager Terry Collins gushed before the game about the extra buzz at Citi Field during games that Harvey pitches, and that was evident again Friday night. But everything seemed to go haywire the moment he left the game, and that buzz was soon replaced with boos.
"After he comes out of the game, everything is out of his hands," Collins said. "He can only do so much."
Pitching well without anything to show for it is nothing new for Harvey; this was the sixth time this season he's allowed one run or fewer and come away with a no-decision or a loss.
But Harvey stayed away from expressing frustration, offering only that he still felt good enough to pitch the eighth but understood Collins' decision to remove him after 109 pitches.
"I was happy about going seven," Harvey said, "but obviously in my mind, going eight or nine is ideal . . . I felt good, but that was his decision."
And Collins made no apologies for taking his ace out, saying he must monitor Harvey's workload.
"It's easy to sit here right now when we've watched the game to look back in the eighth inning and say you should have left him in or you should have made this move or that move," Collins said. "It's a very easy thing to say. I could have left him in, no doubt about it. I could let him throw 150 [pitches]. I decided to take him out, thought he had enough."
After Harvey left, David Aardsma allowed a single, recorded two outs and was lifted so lefthander Josh Edgin could face lefthanded-hitting Denard Span. But Span doubled. So Collins replaced Edgin with Lyon, a righthander, but that move also backfired.
Lyon walked Anthony Rendon to load the bases, then gave up the back-breaker, a leftfield gapper to Zimmerman, who celebrated by emphatically clapping his hands at second base while the boos rained down on Lyon.
An inning later, Collins went to Parnell in hopes of keeping the score tied, but that didn't work, either. After the doubles by Werth and Desmond produced a run, the Nationals added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Kurt Suzuki.
All of which meant another gem by Harvey went for naught.