Matt Harvey spent the better part of a week going through his usual routine in preparation to start Friday’s series opener against the first-place Nationals in Washington. Then things changed for him at 10 a.m. on Thursday when pitching coach Dan Warthen called. The question: with scheduled starter Noah Syndergaard ailing, would Harvey pitch this day?
The answer was ‘yes.’ Not much else went right from there.
Harvey retired the side in order in the first inning but he was not himself in what would become his first loss of the season. His velocity plummeted and his control became erratic. He walked three in the second as Atlanta pushed across two runs. He allowed the bases loaded before getting an out in the fourth and narrowly escaped. And in the fifth he got tagged for four runs including Kurt Suzuki’s three-run homer.
“Things were just pretty tight today. Mechanically it felt really tight on the mound and I couldn’t get loose throughout the start,” Harvey said. “It took a while to get loose in the bullpen and, going out there to try to battle through it, it was a tough day.”
Even though this was coming back on a standard four days of rest, it was the second time in a week’s time Harvey was asked and accepted the assignment to pitch a day ahead of schedule. Last Friday Jacob deGrom needed an extra day and Harvey pitched a day earlier than expected; he pitched seven innings of three-run ball and got no decision in an extra-inning loss.
“It’s different — obviously it’s something I am not used to,” Harvey said. “Expecting to pitch [Friday] I had a big workout yesterday . . . I wasn’t really physically prepared for starting today.
He allowed six runs on five hits and five walks (tying a career-high) in 4 1⁄3 innings.
“This is two times in a row we asked him to step up and pitch when he was not expected to. That’s hard to do at this level as these guys have routines that are important to them,” manager Terry Collins said.
“It had happened before once. I have to be ready for it to happen again,” Harvey said. “Having those workouts I did yesterday and the throwing I did yesterday, I wasn’t prepared. It’s our job to be ready at any time.”