CHICAGO -- When Matt Harvey fired fastballs at home plate Friday, the Cubs looked ready. Perhaps too ready. It didn't take long for them to reveal their game plan against the Mets' pitching phenom.
"They were coming out swinging," said Harvey, who looked momentarily stunned when the Cubs sent rockets all over Wrigley Field's friendly confines. "It's a minor adjustment you have to make, whether it's pitching them backward a little bit or busting them off the plate a little bit."
Latest Mets stories
As has been the case all season, Harvey made a difficult task look easy, walking away with his first victory since April 19 in a 3-2 win over the Cubs. With hitters hunting for fastballs, Harvey responded with a bevy of breaking pitches, heeding the advice of catcher John Buck and pitching coach Dan Warthen.
The change sustained him through 7 1/3 innings. Harvey allowed two first-inning runs, upped his record to 5-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.55. He retired 21 of the last 23 batters he faced, including 14 in a row until Darwin Barney's blooper in the eighth inning.
Harvey broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning with a two-out single to leftfield that drove in Rick Ankiel and sent the Mets to a second consecutive victory for the first time this month.
"This guy's different," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's not your run-of-the-mill young pitcher. This guy has got some savvy, he's got great confidence and he knows how to pitch. He doesn't just have a great arm. This kid knows what he's doing when he's on the mound."
For more than two weeks, very little went right for the Mets, who watched some of their most frustrating losses turn because of ill-timed luck. But they caught a break in the eighth when Marlon Byrd's clutch throw from rightfield short-circuited the Cubs' best chance to rally.
Barney began the inning with a bloop single off Harvey and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Despite a bit of temptation to leave his star pitcher in the game, Collins pulled a clearly irritated Harvey, who punched his mitt but made sure to bite his tongue.
"I saw him starting to get the ball up," Collins said. "It made me a little nervous. That's why we made the move."
Collins summoned lefty specialist Scott Rice to face the lefty-hitting David DeJesus, then watched in horror as the reliever missed the strike zone with his first three pitches.
Though he has historically struggled against lefties, DeJesus then scorched what looked to be a game-tying hit to rightfield. But the ball was hit so hard that Byrd knew a good throw almost certainly would cut down Barney trying to score from second.
"It's a break for the ball to come at me that hard, and for me not to get a bad hop," said Byrd, a former Cub. "The grass is kind of thick. I know from playing here the ball can be low, low, low, and in that last hop, it can jump up on you."
Byrd fired a strike to Buck that easily nailed Barney, who basically gave himself up rather than trying to bowl over the 6-2, 230- pound catcher. With that, the Mets came away with a needed victory, and Harvey reaped the reward for adjusting on the fly.
"That's what makes him so special, that he has all three of those," Buck said. "He has the secondary stuff when he wants it, whenever he wants it, and also if things aren't going right, he knows how to pitch. He can adjust. He can absorb things."