ATLANTA — With his job security in question, and perhaps his credibility as a major-leaguer along with it, Matt Harvey submitted another ugly start Thursday night.
The Mets lost to the Braves, 12-4, as Harvey allowed six runs in six innings, both season highs. It was the third loss in four games and fourth in six for the Mets (13-5), who began a 10-game road trip, their longest of the season.
Mickey Callaway wouldn’t commit to Harvey getting another start. Harvey called it “just two bad innings” and said his strong finish showed he can still be a good starter.
“I’m a starting pitcher. I’ve always been a starting pitcher,” Harvey said when asked if he would be comfortable going to the bullpen. “I showed I can get people out still in the fifth, sixth inning when my pitch count gets up. So I’m a starting pitcher.”
The turning point came in the first inning: three Atlanta runs on a series of hard-hit balls. In the third, three more runs on another series of hard-hit balls. The Braves had seven hits and six runs in their first 15 batters. Harvey (0-2) recovered to retire 11 of his final 12 batters, but the damage was done. He has a 6.00 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
“Plain and simple,” Callaway said. “He did all the right things — getting ahead, throwing strikes. He pitched six innings, but they just got him.”
Said Harvey: “I give Mickey a lot of credit for leaving me in there and letting me battle through it.”
Harvey’s performance is among the factors the Mets will consider in deciding whom to remove from the rotation in the coming days. Lefthander Jason Vargas is scheduled to return next weekend, which means Harvey or Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler likely will be squeezed out. (The Mets haven’t publicly ruled out a six-man rotation.)
With an off day Monday, the Mets could skip Harvey — or make whatever decision they want to make — the next turn through the rotation. Callaway spoke mostly of moving somebody to the bullpen, but sending a starter to Triple-A Las Vegas also is possible. Harvey has a minor-league option remaining, but because of his major-league service time, he would have to approve being sent to the minors.
Asked about that possibility, Harvey said, “I can’t answer that question right now.”
He has averaged 93 mph on his four-seamer, the lowest fastball velocity in any month in his career. He was in that range again Thursday. Callaway said he “didn’t have his best stuff” but acknowledged that it’s impossible to tell whether he is missing his best stuff or if this is simply the quality of his stuff now.
The Braves blew it open in the seventh, when Jerry Blevins allowed four runs.
The Mets did little against Matt Wisler, called up on short notice after scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez was hurt Wednesday. Wisler didn’t allow a baserunner until the fourth, when Asdrubal Cabrera singled with two outs. He didn’t allow a run until the fifth, when Todd Frazier homered. Those were the only hits in seven innings against Wisler.
Adrian Gonzalez homered in a three-run eighth, but it wasn’t enough after the hole Harvey dug for the team and himself.
“I really feel like those last three innings was a big step out of that hole,” Harvey said. “I was able to really break through that mental block I felt every time I was going out there. So I know the results aren’t there, I feel bad I couldn’t have figured that out earlier and better keep the damage limited, but it was a huge positive for me, those last three innings.”