PHOENIX — When you’ve been where Matt Harvey and the New York Mets have been lately, you look for encouraging signs anywhere you can find them.
Harvey is now two starts removed from a team-levied suspension in the wake of more off-field drama, which, along with injuries, are doing a double-whammy on his chances of recapturing stardom.
And the Mets? They left the desert Wednesday night, dragging a seven-game losing streak and 16-23 record with them back to LaGuardia, with their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
So even after a 5-4 loss in which Harvey put up this final line — 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 5 K — while showing flashes of his former self, both he and his manager were quick to find the positive.
“Obviously, if I could go back and change a couple of pitches…but overall it was much better today, and probably the best I’ve felt in two years,’’ Harvey said.
Collins, clearly worn out from answering questions about the litany of things going wrong in this ugly stretch for his team, added:
“There were some bright things I saw in Matt Harvey today. He maintained his velocity. He located very well, especially from the fourth inning on. He threw some good sliders. And I want to tell you, he’s got a great changeup.
“This was a step in the process, and it may take a couple of (more) times. But he felt good about it, and that means a lot. His confidence speaks volumes here.’’
If anything is going to boost Harvey’s confidence in his stuff, it will be the two strikeouts of Paul Goldschmidt — back-to-back, three-pitch punchouts in the third and fifth innings.
“Make no mistake, Paul Goldschmidt is one of the top players in this game,’’ Collins said. “Matt made some key pitches in those at-bats with him.’’
Added Harvey: “When you get a guy like that who can hit it any way, and out of the park, you really have to focus on making your pitches. Obviously, I wish I could do to more of the (other) hitters what I did to him today.’’
But Harvey’s inconsistency showed in allowing a two-run homer and two walks to Jake Lamb, as well as fourth-inning walks to Chris Herrmann and pitcher Patrick Corbin, plus a wild pitch.
Harvey said he is in the process of making mechanical changes, particularly lowering his arm slot, which is improving balance through his delivery. He and pitching coach Dan Warthen watched video of outings from 2013 and 2015 (Harvey’s two successful seasons), and compared those to a video taken during a recent bullpen session. Making these types of changes in-season is unusual, but also necessary, as Harvey is 2-3 with 5.56 ERA this season, and 6-13 with a 5.09 ERA in 25 starts in 2016-17.
“Being able to lower it and work through the whole game at that (arm) angle was much better,’’ Harvey said. “I think (throwing) out of the stretch was much easier than it has been in the last few games. I was feeling better with the mechanics.
“A lot of bad habits developed last year, when I couldn’t throw from that angle. I was telling Dan that when I tried to throw from that angle last year, probably halfway through spring training, I was getting tingling and numbness in my index finger.
“This year, there were two good (starts) at the beginning, but then I felt a lot of last year start to creep back into my outings. So we’ve worked hard on getting things back to the mechanics that were so successful in the past. At times today, I still was thinking about mechanics instead of just letting it go. With a couple more outings, more bullpens, I should be able to do that.’’
The recovery process will continue next week at Citi Field against the San Diego Padres — a much easier challenge than the potent D-backs lineup in hitter-friendly Chase Field.
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