The look on Matt Harvey’s face when Jonathan Villar’s line drive disappeared over the wall in the leftfield corner for a three-run home run said it all:
Are you kidding me?
The wind-aided, opposite-field homer put Harvey and the Mets in a 3-0 hole in the second inning at Citi Field on Saturday night. Seven innings later, the Mets’ nine-game winning streak came to an end with a 5-1 loss to the Brewers.
Winning streak ending? Yawn. It had to end sometime, and the Mets are 11-2.
The larger concern for Harvey is the trend line for his first three outings of 2018. Five scoreless innings and one hit in his first one. Five innings and four runs allowed in each of his last two.
“I just have to be better than that,” Harvey said. If he isn’t, a trip to the bullpen might be in his future.
The problem for Harvey isn’t so much Harvey. It’s the flexing and unflexing of the right hand of Jason Vargas in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Vargas probably is about 10 days away from joining the Mets’ rotation. That will happen once the lefthander can safely take the mound with a glove on his surgically repaired right hand.
The Mets signed Vargas for two years and $16 million at the start of spring training, so he’s going to start when he’s able. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom aren’t going anywhere, so the odd man out in the rotation when Vargas returns will come down to who among the trio of Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler is pitching the poorest.
This is the meritocracy Mets fans have been waiting for, right? The best guy, not the biggest name, gets the spot. New manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland have no history with these guys and aren’t going to shed a tear if they have to make a tough call.
Wheeler already has been banished to Triple-A, only to return and throw seven brilliant innings on Wednesday against the Marlins. Wheeler was challenged by Callaway and Eiland to get his act to match his stuff. For one start, at least, he did.
The issue for Harvey isn’t harnessing overpowering stuff. The Harvey of today is about learning to pitch with diminished velocity and shaky confidence.
On a windy night, Harvey mowed down the Brewers 1-2-3 in the first. The way the Mets have been rolling, fans who bundled up to attend the game certainly expected another night filled with Mets magic.
But there were two on and one out when Villar stepped to the plate in the second. Harvey fired a 93-mph fastball on a 1-and-0 count and Villar lined it the other way. In an eye blink, the Mets were in a three-run hole.
“Off the bat, I thought it was foul,” Harvey said. “But then after I looked up, obviously it was hooking down the line.”
Said Callaway: “It kind of looked weird. It was kind of a late swing . . . I think we were all like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ ”
The rest of the outing was a slog for Harvey, who also allowed a solo homer to deep left in the fourth by Jett Bandy. (How is that not a character in “Star Wars”?) Harvey allowed eight hits and one walk with six strikeouts in a season-high 95-pitch effort.
“Obviously, we had a good streak going,” Harvey said. “That loss is on me. Completely . . . I have to be better. I’ll have to take my 24 hours and be [upset] about this one and just be better tomorrow.”
The Mets didn’t get a hit against Brewers starter Chase Anderson until Amed Rosario’s infield single with two outs in the fifth. The highlight for the home team was Paul Sewald’s three perfect innings of relief with five strikeouts.
The crowd of 40,965 came expecting to see postgame fireworks and another Mets win. At least they got the fireworks.