NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey insists the thought of a complete game did not enter his mind in the fifth, the sixth or even the seventh inning Saturday, despite his low pitch count on a brilliant Yankee Stadium afternoon. It was not until Harvey completed the eighth inning in 10 pitches that he marched off the field, into the dugout and directly to Terry Collins, telling his manager that he planned to go out for the ninth.
With a six-run lead, Harvey quickly recorded his 25th and 26th outs of the day, before allowing a hit and a walk. Sighing, Collins trotted out to the mound, knowing what the conversation would be.
"I can get this guy," Harvey said, staring at his manager.
"Matt," Collins replied, "I can't."
Collins won the argument, of course, because in the end, both men know the Mets have more ambitious plans than an 8-2 win over the Yankees on April 25. An hour later, after his emotions had cooled, even Harvey admitted he was satisfied with 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball, striking out seven and walking two.
Harvey still improved to 4-0, becoming only the second pitcher in franchise history to open multiple seasons with four consecutive wins. He still delighted a mixed crowd at Yankee Stadium, across the street from where he grew up attending games with his father, Ed.
That he wanted more was simply a product of his nature.
"I was happy with going seven," Harvey said. "And then when I went out there through the eighth and got through the eighth pretty easily, I think at that point, my mindset switched and I wanted to go all nine."
There were two reasons why Harvey even found himself with a chance. The first was that he arrived at the ballpark sporting all of his weapons, dialing his fastball close to triple-digits and his slider as high as 90 mph. The second was that the Yankees were hyper-aggressive early in the game, the first 10 of them swinging at the first strike they saw.
Harvey's final out came on his 102nd pitch, a 98-mph fastball to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth. Swing and a miss.
"Wow," Rodriguez said, finishing 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. "As good as advertised, no doubt about it."
Twice, the Yankees cracked Harvey for runs, once on a Jacoby Ellsbury double play in the third inning and once on a Mark Teixeira homer in the seventh. But none of that seemed to faze Harvey, who retired 18 of 19 during one mid- to late-inning stretch. So while Collins never stopped considering the caution with which he and the organization have promised to handle Harvey, who is still just 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery, a part of him was content to sit back and watch.
"This is a stage that he dies to pitch on," Collins said. "This is why he pitches, to be in these situations. I knew when the game started today that he was going to pitch well. This is what makes this guy tick."
For a few fleeting moments, the thought of a complete game seemed to consume everyone. From his vantage point behind the plate, rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki "really wanted to finish it." Fans in the stands were chanting his name. But the 14-4 Mets know they have greater things in mind for Harvey, the most significant of them still to come.
"The idea is to protect him and win the game," Collins said. "And we did both."