GIFs (and some words) tell true story of Harvey-Harper battle

GIFs (and some words) tell true story of Harvey-Harper battle

WASHINGTON -- Matt Harvey's long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery was hardly lacking in highlights, with nine strikeouts in total and 15 swings and misses. A disproportionate number of those came courtesy Bryce Harper, one of the best hitters in baseball.

Harper entered the game 0-for-7 lifetime off Harvey. And ever the competitor, Harvey admitted to bearing down at certain points Thursday when Harper came to the plate in the Mets' 6-3 win.

"He's a huge challenge," Harvey said. "A couple of times he came up, there were runners on base. So that makes it even more important that you concentrate on what you have to do."

Here, in words and pictures, is exactly what Harvey did:

Strikeout No. 1

Harvey Harper K 1

As the Nationals' No. 3 hitter, Harper dug in against Harvey with a man on first base and one out in the first inning. Harvey greeted him with something novel: an 83-mph curveball that Harper swung through.

He wouldn't give Harper another offspeed pitch in the at-bat. Strike two was a 97-mph fastball up and away, prompting another whiff. Harvey extended the strike zone even further with his next fastball, which Harper took for a ball, before dotting the outside corner with his third 97-mph heater of the at-bat. Swing and a miss.

Strikeout No. 2:

Harvey Harper K 2

Two innings later, Harper again came to the plate with a man on first, this time with two outs. Again, Harvey started him off with a breaking ball, but Harper laid off it. Then Harvey started climbing the ladder: an 88-mph changeup on the outside corner, which Harper fouled away, followed by a 96-mph fastball up and outside, then a 97-mph heater well north of the strike zone. Harper swung through both of them.

Strikeout No. 3:

Harvey Harper K 3

When Harper led off the sixth inning, Harvey came right after him again, delivering four straight fastballs to run the count to 2-2.

That's when the fun began. With two strikes, Harvey tried to drop a curveball into the zone, but missed. He came back with almost the exact same pitch at 3-2 and Harper spoiled it. So Harvey turned back to his old friend the fastball, elevating it above the strike zone yet again.

Swing and a miss.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.