WASHINGTON - If Matt Harvey does end up pitching in the playoffs, and that's hardly a guarantee, he will do so only within arm's reach of the 180-inning barrier we've all been obsessed with since Scott Boras brought it up last week.
That's going to severely cut back on his September starts, maybe leaving him only one more after Tuesday night's outing against the Nationals. As Sandy Alderson described the plan in broad strokes before Monday's matinee, it was clear that the Mets had to cut some kind of deal with the pitcher and his agent.
"Matt wants to be available and we want to be prudent," Alderson said. "I think we can reconcile those two interests."
The sooner, the better. With the Mets now in full-grind mode, trying to maintain their hold on the NL East lead, they've already wasted far too much time on this Harvey innings-limit fiasco.
As great as Harvey is, he's just one of 25, and the best way for the Mets to move past their latest drama du jour is to keep doing what they did in Monday's impressive 8-5 win over the Nationals. Believe it or not, Harvey didn't throw a pitch in a game Terry Collins characterized as the "biggest of the season so far," and the Mets still rallied for a win to be proud of.
How fitting that it was David Wright, the anti-Harvey, who delivered the go-ahead hit, an RBI single with one out in the seventh inning.
Wright is the Mets' captain for a reason, a leader by example, and we don't have the room to list the injuries he's played through.
Suffice it to say that Wright had waited a long time for Monday's moment -- about seven years, to be exact, the Mets' last sniff of a September pennant race. He spent the past 4½ months rehabbing a back condition that will never completely go away. So when Wright later slid across the plate, scoring from first base on Yoenis Cespedes' double, he jumped up and delivered an emotional fist pump straight from his soul.
"You go through 2006 and 2007 and 2008, you believe that's going to be the standard," Wright said. "That's something maybe I took for granted. I don't take it for granted anymore."
And frankly, Wright is not going to let Harvey ruin it. During a turbulent Sunday in Miami, Wright spent a few innings talking to Harvey -- or perhaps lecturing him, based on the visual -- on the dugout bench. The captain wouldn't disclose details of that conversation, but he smiled in giving a sliver of insight into Harvey's mind-set as he talked about Tuesday night's start.
"We got a pretty good shot to win this one," he said, "with an angry Matt Harvey on the hill."
The Mets hope Harvey can channel that fury at the Nationals. But if not, they've proved this isn't a one-man show. After Jon Niese imploded Monday, instantly giving back a 3-0 lead on Wilson Ramos' grand slam, the Mets clawed back with the Wright-inspired rally in the seventh. They also hit three homers and got two huge relief innings from Hansel Robles.
This was all done without Harvey stepping on the field. As Alderson said, the Mets won't use him in the final Nats series if it's inconsequential, and that would give them better odds of a playoff start from him.
Obviously, the Mets are more dangerous with Harvey. But they also can win without him.
Now it's Harvey's turn to send a message of his own.
"I think Matt Harvey is going to step up," Collins said, "and show everybody in New York, everybody in baseball, that he's as tough as the persona he puts on."
Harvey owes the Mets that much.