On paper, a pitcher's win-loss record is considered an individual achievement, a reflection of how he has performed. It is supposed to represent, in the simplest terms, whether a pitcher has helped his team toward the ultimate goal.
But in reality, win-loss records aren't at all an individual matter, but the product of a group. As such, they are deceiving, as they are in the case of Mets phenom Matt Harvey.
On paper, despite allowing just one run in seven innings, Harvey suffered his first defeat of the season in a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals Thursday.
In reality, he emerged once more as one of the few achievers of an otherwise downtrodden group, a distinction that his 5-1 record fails to make.
"You guys know me, I don't like to lose," Harvey said. "Today, I needed to go out and put up zeros, and I wasn't able to do that."
Of course, the real culprit in the Mets' latest defeat had nothing to do with Harvey and everything to do with his supporting cast. The righthander received exactly zero run support as the Mets' offense wilted against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who tossed seven scoreless innings to become the first pitcher in the big leagues to 10 wins.
Wainwright (10-3, 2.18) may have twice the number of victories as Harvey (2.04 ERA), though both have been excellent despite the disparity in their records.
The difference is clear.
Wainwright has enjoyed all the perks of playing for a contender -- primarily a strong supporting cast -- while Harvey has enjoyed none of those benefits.
"The wins and losses don't mean anything to me personally," Harvey said. "It's a matter of the team winning."
Nevertheless, Mets manager Terry Collins felt compelled to pull Harvey aside after his latest wasted effort in an attempt to quell any natural frustration.
"When you're pitching as well as he has and just aren't able to win some games, it can be a little frustrating, especially for a young guy who's trying to make an impact in this league," Collins said.
Harvey -- who allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one -- retired the first seven batters he faced before Pete Kozma's one-out single in the third. Two batters later, Matt Carpenter hit a liner to rightfield, where Marlon Byrd whiffed on his diving attempt to make the catch. Carpenter pulled into third with an RBI triple that gave the Cards a 1-0 lead.
In the eighth, the Cardinals added an insurance run on Allen Craig's RBI single off reliever LaTroy Hawkins. It proved to be critical.
With one out in the ninth, Byrd bashed a solo shot off Cardinals closer Edward Mujica, who was summoned to protect a two-run lead.
John Buck followed with a ground-rule double before Kirk Nieuwenhuis just missed tying it, grounding out when Cardinals second baseman Carpenter ranged to his right to take away a hit.
Pinch hitter Josh Satin, promoted on Tuesday from Triple-A Las Vegas, struck out with the tying run on third base. With that, Harvey took his first loss of the year.
"You could just tell, he wants to win so bad," David Wright said. "But the last thing you want him doing is going out there and trying even harder . . . that can be somewhat counterproductive when instead of throwing 97 you're trying to throw 100."
On paper, Harvey has eight no-decisions in his last 10 starts, even though he has allowed more than three runs just twice in that span. In reality, Harvey should have more victories to show for his work, perhaps just as many as Wainwright.
"He just needs to keep continuing to do what he's been doing all year," Wright said. "He's been as dominant as anybody in baseball. Unfortunately, the win-loss record doesn't reflect that because of our offensive struggles."