CLEVELAND -- The switch flipped in the fifth inning, and Matt Harvey could not flip it back.
It all began with a walk to Carlos Santana, the first baserunner that Harvey allowed in Saturday's 7-5 loss to the Indians. Until then, Harvey was cruising, striking out the side in the first inning en route to 13 straight outs. This may not have been vintage Harvey -- his velocity sat in the low-90s all afternoon, not the mid- to upper-90s to which the Mets are accustomed -- but it was plenty good enough.
By the time Santana batted again an inning later, Harvey was a different person. He spiked consecutive curveballs into the dirt. He walked Santana again, this time on five pitches. Three batters later, Harvey was out of the game, his ERA up to 5.71 and his record primed to drop to 0-3.
"I still think he's going to have a big, big year," pitching coach Dan Warthen said. "I think right now, if we've ever seen Matt Harvey press, this might be the time. He's really trying to force the issue."
That Harvey evaporated so suddenly after looking so dominant may have been disturbing to his manager, Terry Collins, who called the issue "hard to explain." But Warthen was not shocked. During Harvey's between-starts bullpen session, Warthen said, the two worked on a mechanical issue that affects him out of the stretch.
With runners on base, in other words, Harvey loses a portion of what has often made him seem immortal.
"You get into a pressure situation, you do fall back into bad habits," Warthen said. "Essentially, that's what happened today. This has been Matt's biggest bugaboo since I've had him."
Harvey's opponents have noticed it, too. Somewhat daunted by shadows that covered home plate at Saturday's 4:10 p.m. ET start time at Progressive Field, the Indians struggled to do anything against Harvey early -- much like the Mets proved mostly ineffective against his counterpart, Josh Tomlin.
It was not until Santana walked with one out in the fifth that the Indians immediately and thoroughly began thrashing one of baseball's best pitchers. Two batters later, Jose Ramirez doubled home Cleveland's first run. The next man, former Met Juan Uribe, singled in Ramirez.
By the time the Indians unleashed a deluge of offense in the sixth, including RBI hits from Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli and Yan Gomes, Harvey had allowed three-plus runs in three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
"I think he was very good out of the windup -- deceptive, everything," Indians outfielder Rajai Davis said. "Once he got in the stretch, it was like an opening for us. And our guys did a good job of taking care of that."
On Saturday, it was enough of an issue to overshadow Harvey's velocity, which topped out at 93 mph in the middle innings. Prior to Tommy John surgery in 2013, Harvey's average four-seamer rested comfortably above 96 mph, hitting triple digits on occasion. Even last year, upon his return, Harvey averaged over 96 mph, per Statcast™ -- topping out at 100 mph -- before dipping slightly toward the end of the summer.
For the Mets, though, one worry at a time. They have to get Harvey right, and that starts with men on base.
"Nobody's more frustrated right now than I am," Harvey said. "Not just today, but the last couple starts. There's a lot that went wrong. … There's a lot of frustration. And there's not much else to say."