Good Knight: Harvey dials up needed K's

Clutch strikeouts help Mets starter notch 2nd straight win

Good Knight: Harvey dials up needed K's

PITTSBURGH -- Mets manager Terry Collins has just one basic request of Matt Harvey, his once-prized right-hander.

"Just go out and pitch," Collins said, before Harvey took the mound against the Pirates on Sunday night. "We're not asking him to save the season."

Harvey then went out and perhaps saved something else -- a piece of what or who he once was. No longer the same pitcher after two major surgeries since 2014, he did at times resemble the "Dark Knight" of old at PNC Park, shutting down the Pirates with six strong innings in a 7-2 Mets win. Harvey gave up one run and six hits, walking two and striking out four while wriggling out of a couple of jams.

Recovered from surgery to relieve the thoracic outlet syndrome that damaged his 2016 season and eventually ended it in July, Harvey won a second straight decision for the first time since April 27 of last year.

Afterward, he turned to face the media crowd in front of his locker, smiled and put on a plastic silver crown with fake blue jewels, which goes to the Mets' player of the game.

"I didn't think I was going to wear this all year," he said. "It's nice. It's a good feeling."

The big thing about this game was "when I did get in trouble and had some runners in scoring position, when I needed that strikeout like I have in the past, it was there," he said. "That was definitely positive for me."

In the fourth inning, the Mets led, 2-1, and the Pirates had runners on second and third after two singles and a wild pitch, with one out. Harvey proceeded to fan Francisco Cervelli and get Jordy Mercer looking at a called third strike.

Harvey strikes out Mercer

The next inning, now a 3-1 game, Harvey struck out Gregory Polanco on a wicked slider. Polanco had homered in the second inning. That was a slider, too.

"Different location," Harvey said of the strikeout pitch.

"That's what I've been waiting for for a long time, being able to put somebody away with that and get out of a tight situation and not give up any more runs, any more damage," Harvey said. "In the second inning, he hit the home run. Runners in scoring position, you want to keep the damage limited. That was probably the biggest at-bat for me the entire game."

In addition to the slider, Harvey's curve was the best Collins said he has seen "in a year." Catcher Travis d'Arnaud described it as "really sharp." Harvey nudged his fastball to 96 mph a few times, but the velocity is now a few ticks less than before. But he made it all work.

"He doesn't have to throw 97 to get people out. Tonight he showed that," Collins said.

Collins on Harvey's outing

"I think he had confidence tonight that his stuff was working, and when he got in trouble I saw him make great pitches," Collins said. "He commands it, he gets outs. And he commanded his fastball tonight in big situations."

Harvey, who lowered his ERA to 4.95, missed all of 2014 because of Tommy John surgery after a banner 2013, his first full season. He rebounded in 2015 and was National League Comeback Player of the Year. Last season was a wreck.

Harvey's demeanor, on and off the field, has been questioned, especially after he was handed a three-day suspension this season for not showing up for a game. There were more questions Sunday, but the answers all were positive.

"He was taking it pitch by pitch," d'Arnaud said, "good or bad."

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh and covered the Mets on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.