"When you play the New York Mets, you'd better be on your 'A' game," said Mets manager Terry Collins before Harvey threw six shutout innings and the Mets held on for the win. "They've gone back-to-back against two of the best power arms in baseball. And we've got another one they haven't seen."
Collins was referring to Jacob deGrom, whom the Blue Jays won't face this week when the four-game Interleague set shifts to Toronto for a pair of games on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
On Tuesday night the Blue Jays had enough of Harvey, not to mention Bobby Parnell, the closer who recorded the final five outs to record his first save in almost two years. Like Harvey, Parnell has just returned from the miracle of Tommy John surgery.
Collins has talked a lot in recent days about the aftermath of the surgery causing pitching fatigue. Harvey, now 7-4, has won only twice in his eight starts since May 1. Everyone is searching for answers.
"I've heard the talk that he's coming off Tommy John and has had a dead arm. There could be something to that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Like any of the other guys, as good as he is, if he's throwing fat pitches up there, they can get hit. That happens to the best of them. He's probably made a few more mistakes than he has in the past. But when he's on, there's probably not a better one out there, really."
Harvey, who has struggled in three of his last four starts, was in vintage form on Tuesday night. He allowed four hits, pitched out of three jams without giving up a run and finished his performance with a flourish, recording two of his six strikeouts to open the seventh inning. He didn't walk a batter.
Harvey escaped unscathed with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth. With two out in the sixth, Jose Bautista just missed slamming a homer but had to settle for a triple when the ball bounced off the wall in right-center. Harvey left him stranded on third.
Even though Harvey had thrown 96 pitches after six, Collins sent him out for the seventh. With the bullpen running thin and Jeurys Familia and Hansel Robles unavailable, there wasn't any real deliberation.
"There was no conversation," Harvey said. "[Pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] asked how I was, and I said, 'Good,' and that was it."
Three quick outs later, Harvey left having tossed 107 pitches, 75 for strikes. Collins said there was some consideration about sending Harvey out to face one batter in the eighth, but this being only his 13th start since returning, Collins didn't want to push it.
"I felt pretty good, but once I creeped over 100, 105, I knew I was done," Harvey said.
Harvey had caused concern by allowing a career-high seven earned runs each in a pair of recent losses, including an 8-5 thrashing from the Giants here this past Thursday night. The start prior to that, on June 4, he pitched seven innings of two-run, six-hit ball in a win over the D-backs at Arizona, so the tide definitely seems to be turning. But it's safe to say that as he worked on the side this past week locating his fastball, Harvey was pretty disenchanted.
"Not just this week, but probably for the last 14 days, he hasn't been very happy," Collins said. "I think Matt prepared himself tonight as good as he possibly can, considering all the things he's been going through, including being off for a year. He's applied himself this week to make sure tonight was a different performance."
The Blue Jays came to town on an 11-game winning streak, having scored 31 runs on 43 hits in a three-game weekend sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park. But in a game they lost, 5-4, in 11 innings on Monday night, Syndergaard held them to one run on two hits while whiffing a career-high 11 in his six-inning, 100-pitch performance. It was only his seventh Major League start.
Thus the Syndergaard-Harvey combo combined to allow just one run on six hits with two walks and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings. The Blue Jays came in as the top offensive team in the Major Leagues. They left having lost two in a row, scoring just five runs on 12 hits.
Gibbons was more than impressed by New York's frontline pitching, which also includes Jon Niese and the seemingly ageless Bartolo Colon, the two starters the Blue Jays will face up north. Collins, though, said these first two games weren't as much about the Mets sending a message as they were about a glimpse through the looking glass.
"I think it says a lot about our pitching staff; I think it's a legitimate thing," Collins said. "We have been saying it all year long: Everybody's going to have bad games, everybody's going to have bad nights, but we have good pitching here, very good pitching, and we have more to come.
"That's the nice part about looking down the road and looking at the big picture. It's going to be a lot of fun here. This team's in for a good run for a long time."