PHILADELPHIA - To protect the starting rotation from injuries -- including crown jewel Matt Harvey -- the Mets built additional rest into the schedule.
On the surface, the extra few days didn't seem like much. But after taking his first defeat of the season, in a 3-1 loss to the Phillies Friday night, Harvey said he noticed the effect of inactivity.
"It's different," Harvey said. "We've all been going through it. Every single one of us had an extra day here and there. So dealing with it is something you have to do and I don't think I did a very good job of it."
Technically, the Mets' ace delivered a quality start. In six innings, he allowed three runs and six hits, good enough to earn a win on even an average night for his offense. But in seven innings, Phillies lefty Cole Hamels held the Mets to just one run, which came on a wild pitch.
"We didn't help out much," manager Terry Collins said. "We didn't score much."
As a result, all of Harvey's mistakes were amplified. Ryan Howard knocked in two runs, one on a solo homer and the other on a ground single to shallow right despite the shift.
Harvey said the extra days without facing hitters made it harder for him to get into a "groove," particularly when it came to his pitch sequencing.
After the game, Harvey spoke of his excitement to get back into a regular routine, which is likely with the Mets beginning a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
At the start of the day, the Mets looked positioned to continue their latest winning streak. They had consecutive victories against the Orioles before Thursday's day off.
As an added bonus, they sent the undefeated Harvey to the mound against the basement-dwelling Phillies. In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Harvey looked to become just the ninth Mets starter to begin a season at 6-0.
But his bid ended in the sixth when he was pulled after just 86 pitches for pinch hitter Anthony Recker with the Mets trailing by two runs. "He was all right," Collins said of Harvey. "They didn't knock him around. They just got some big hits."
While the Phillies scrounged for runs, the Mets missed their best chance to break through.
In the fourth, longtime teammates Hamels and catcher Carlos Ruiz looked as if they were working with each other for the first time. The batterymates appeared flustered as they attempted to navigate the inning.
It showed when Hamels threw a pair of wild pitches, including one that allowed Michael Cuddyer to score from third. But the Mets failed to capitalize when Harvey struck out to end the threat.
In the ninth, the Mets attempted a rally against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Daniel Murphy led off the inning with a single to right. But Papelbon bounced back to strike out pinch hitter Lucas Duda and rookie Kevin Plawecki. Dilson Herrera flied out to strand Murphy.
Harvey took his first loss despite his quality start. And the Mets, who had won two straight games, missed a chance to continue their winning streak.
Said Plawecki: "We could have given him more help offensively."