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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Matt Harvey is a leader worth following

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey is

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey is greeted in the dugout after the top of the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in a game at Citi Field on Monday, May 18, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The last three Mets games featured outstanding performances by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and, on Monday night, Matt Harvey, who threw eight shutout innings against the Cardinals at Citi Field.

DeGrom and Syndergaard earned wins against the Brewers. Harvey should have had a win, too, but for the second straight outing, he left with a 1-0 lead only to see the bullpen give it up. This time it was Jeurys Familia, who blew his first save in 14 chances on Jason Heyward's short sacrifice fly to right in the ninth.

Let's get this out of the way: No, manager Terry Collins shouldn't have kept Harvey (105 pitches) in for the ninth. It's a long season, Harvey is coming off major surgery and Familia has been great. And the Mets went on to win in 14 innings anyway, 2-1.

We're sure Harvey was disappointed the win wasn't his, but he didn't show that publicly. He can't. It's not what leaders do.

Harvey, you see, is developing into more than just a great pitcher. More than just an ace on the day he pitches. He's the frontman of a talented pack of young Mets starters who could, by midseason 2016, form the entire rotation.

"I think all five starters are doing their job right now," Harvey said. "Not just the three of us. It's all of us as a staff. It's fun to watch . . . I know everybody likes talking about the future, but we're here to win now."

Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese have done well. But how's this for a fivesome once Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery next summer: Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Long Island lefty Steven Matz.

The Dark Knight, the deGrominator, Thor . . . and two guys who need nicknames.

It's what Mets planners hoped for years ago when they assembled a truckload of hard-throwing arms. It's what fans fantasize about for 2016, even as they watch and wait for their 2015 dreams to come true.

It's not that far from reality. And Harvey already is proving he won't shy away from fronting this impressive group on the mound and in the clubhouse.

"He's not a speech-giver," Collins said. "But he is who he is . . . The young guys that we have on this pitching staff, they're seeing what Matt Harvey's doing."

It turns out Harvey's plan to spend half of his rehab time in New York last season -- a plan he had to force on Mets brass -- really wasn't just about escaping sleepy Port St. Lucie, Florida.

"He didn't pitch last year, but he was here," Collins said. "We wanted his personality and the fact that he's a very good teammate in the clubhouse. And he was that guy -- and he still is that guy."

On Monday night, the Dark Knight faced his Kryptonite in the Cardinals. (Yes, we know Kryptonite was Superman's nemesis, not Batman's. Roll with it, please.)

Harvey came in 0-2 against St. Louis with a 3.00 ERA. It's not much, but Harvey, whom Collins called "a different cat" the other day, doesn't want to lose any games, much less two to the same team. You can bet he knew.

He also knew what Syndergaard did on Sunday in his dazzling home debut. It made Harvey Day feel like a bit of an afterthought. Maybe that, too, motivated Harvey more than he would admit.

"I think he brings just a little sense of competition to the staff," Collins said. "He gets so much publicity. Say what you want, this is the big leagues and that's part of the game up here. Some of those guys want a little of that, too."

Next year, they might all get it. One after the other.

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