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Matt Harvey takes step forward as Mets beat Reds

Matt Harvey of the Mets pitches in the

Matt Harvey of the Mets pitches in the first inning against the Reds at Citi Field on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

What unfolded during Matt Harvey’s five innings against the Reds on Thursday night would not be mistaken for vintage dominance.

He fell behind in counts and generated only a few swings-and-misses. His fastball registered higher than 94 mph only once, and even then, it came against the opposing pitcher.

But after a disastrous return from the disabled list — and a mini-controversy over what would follow — Harvey’s outing represented clear progress.

“Obviously, still not where I want to be,” he said after the Mets’ 7-2 win over the Reds. “But moving in the right direction.”

Terry Collins wanted to see any improvement out of Harvey. It was a low standard, given that he was torched for seven runs and eight hits in a career-low two innings Saturday against Houston. But Harvey (5-4, 5.82 ERA) was better, holding the Reds to two runs and five hits in five innings with a walk and a strikeout. “I know it’s going to take time,” he said after earning his first win since May 28.

Brandon Nimmo homered twice and had three RBIs.

Eager to move past his clunker against Houston, Harvey had pushed the Mets to let him pitch on Wednesday night, even though he’d be on short rest. The Mets initially consented to the unorthodox idea, insisting he would be at no physical risk after throwing only 70 pitches in his previous outing, but they changed course late on Tuesday. Though Collins cited poor weather, public backlash appeared to play a part in the reversal. Based on the performance, it was the right decision.

In only his second start since landing on the disabled list in June with a stress injury to his shoulder, Harvey allowed a run in each of his first two innings. He again looked like a pitcher coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, his fastball lacking the life and velocity that once vaulted him to stardom.

But Harvey made the best of improved command of his diminished arsenal, finishing up with three scoreless innings. With Harvey having thrown 74 pitches, Collins pinch hit for him when his spot in the order came up in the fifth, seemingly content to trade an abbreviated outcome for a positive result. “As the game went on, all of a sudden his mechanics got better and better and better,” Collins said.

In the fifth, Phillip Ervin got plunked, then swiped second. But Harvey, protecting a one-run lead, turned away the threat.

“That was a big moment in the start,” he said. “Overall, it’s starting to feel a little more comfortable out there with mechanics and attacking hitters.”

“He’s had to really reach down inside and ask his mind to do things that came second nature to him at one time,” Collins said before the game. “It’s been hard for him. When you’re as good as he was and to have to come down a level and fight your way back, sometimes it can be hard mentally. Certainly Matt is doing the best he can to deal with it.”

Flores’ season over. Wilmer Flores has been shut down for the remainder of the season after fouling a ball into his face and suffering a broken nose Saturday. The injury ended a strong year for Flores, 26, who set career highs in average (.271), homers (18) and OPS (.795). “I could have done better,” he said. “I was looking to have a good September, but it’s not happening. I did what I could and we’ll see.” . . . Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with lower-back stiffness. He will have an MRI exam Friday.

New York Sports