TAMPA, Fla. — It’s the dog days of spring, and for Mets righthander Matt Harvey on Saturday, that meant a linescore that was not indicative of the satisfaction derived from his outing against the Yankees.
The boxscore tells one story: 4 2⁄3 innings, six hits, five runs, one walk, two strikeouts. In the regular season, that’s probably a bummer of a day.
The reaction from Harvey and manager Mickey Callaway told another story. Harvey purposely leaned on his fastball, a normal spring training exercise, and successfully stayed within his delivery from beginning to end, his goal for the day. He stretched out to almost 60 pitches and maintained his fastball velocity (mid-90s) through the fifth.
“The focus going into today was repeating my mechanics and making sure the ball was coming out good,” Harvey said after the Mets’ 10-3 loss. “Really wanted to throw the fastball as much as possible. Obviously, a couple of them were up in the zone, but today’s focus for me was making sure from the beginning of the start to the end of the start that I was concentrating on my mechanics and keeping those smooth and where I wanted them. And I felt like I did that really well. I was very happy about that.”
The turning point — and ending point — was a home run by Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning National League MVP’s first as a Yankee. Harvey missed close with an 0-and-2 pitch, then Stanton went deep.
Stanton, batting third, was the line of demarcation for Harvey. Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and Stanton — the first third of the Yankees’ order — went a combined 5-for-7 against Harvey. Everybody else went 1-for-12.
“Once we layer on some information, [the results will be better],” Callaway said. “He probably threw some pitches he probably wouldn’t throw in the regular season that maybe cost him some runs that we’re not too worried about.”
Harvey retired eight in a row at one point. He also induced 10 ground balls to one fly ball, another result that pleased him.
“I was able to get a lot of ground balls with the fastball,” Harvey said. “That was a big plus for me.”
Harvey’s fastball-heavy pitch usage mirrored that of lefthander Steven Matz on Friday, but Callaway said that is not the result of any sort of directive from him or pitching coach Dave Eiland for this turn through the rotation.
“I just want them to be able to know they can go to their fastball and throw it where they want to when the time comes,” Callaway said.
In the bigger picture, Callaway said he is seeing more confidence from Harvey three starts into their first spring training together, noting that Harvey is “going after [hitters] with conviction.”
“The confidence is definitely coming back,” Callaway said.
Assisting in that confidence restoration was Harvey’s ability to throw his last pitch the same way he threw his first one. He said that as he worked himself into several jams, it was a good test not only in trying to prevent runs from scoring but in keeping his delivery the same in a time of stress and fatigue.
By day’s end, it was just another small step forward in a month and a half full of them.
“Getting into those fourth, fifth innings, you really want to make sure that your mechanics are sound and you’re not trying to do too much,” Harvey said. “You do get tired as you get toward those later innings. To keep your mechanics and keep your focus on those, it’s definitely a big positive. It’s something I felt like I did pretty well throughout the start.”