Harvey gaining steam with improved command

Mets righty takes shutout into eighth, has walked just one in last two starts

Harvey gaining steam with improved command

NEW YORK -- The Mets lined up their rotation after the All-Star break to make sure that their top three starters -- including Matt Harvey, who has said he relishes taking the mound in big games -- would get the opportunity to pitch in two crucial series against the Nationals, the team they are chasing in the National League East.

In front of a raucous crowd of 36,164 fans Friday night at Citi Field, Harvey delivered one of his best performances of the year. He was locked in from the start, stifling Washington's offense for 7 2/3 innings before Wilmer Flores' walk-off home run in the 12th gave New York a 2-1 victory.

Harvey's stellar start

The Mets had traded for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the buzz from the crowd reflected it. When Harvey began the game by retiring the first 16 Nationals in order, the crowd worked itself into a frenzy.

He finally yielded a hit with one out in the sixth inning to catcher Jose Lobaton, but responded promptly by striking out the next batter, one of his nine punchouts.

"That's the best command, I thought on both sides of the plate, he's had all year," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Harvey did not allow a run until the eighth inning. After retiring the first two batters, he hit pinch-hitter Clint Robinson on the foot with the third pitch of the at-bat.

Robinson hit, call stands

The Mets challenged the play, thinking the ball bounced on the dirt and missed Robinson's foot, but the call stood. Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar followed with back-to-back singles to drive in Washington's lone run and knock Harvey out of the game.

"It's one of those calls that you can't, it's so close you can't overturn," Harvey said about the challenge. "Obviously, I wish I could have it back and place it a little bit better than I did."

Still, Harvey's line was encouraging for the Mets. He scattered five hits and allowed one run, striking out nine without a walk. Harvey has now walked only one batter over his last two starts (14 2/3 innings) after walking 13 batters in his previous three starts (19 innings).

"I think the last couple outings have been a huge improvement for that," Harvey said. "I think being able to throw the slider and work off of that, and also be able to locate my fastball a little better has made a huge difference. I'm excited for my next outing. Today, obviously one pitch would've gotten us out of here a little bit sooner, but overall the win is huge for us."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.