HOUSTON -- The version of Matt Harvey that took the mound Saturday at Minute Maid Park looked nothing like the one the Mets need to show up in 2018. Making his first start since June 14 due to a shoulder injury, Harvey allowed seven runs on eight hits in two innings, hit a batter, threw two wild pitches and averaged 93 mph on his fastballs in a 12-8 loss to the Astros.
Afterward, he spoke as if the opposite scenario had unfolded.
"I'm fully confident that within the next start, or the start after that, whatever it is, that by the end of the season I'll be comfortable on the mound and throwing to hitters," Harvey said. "There's not one doubt in my mind that with health, mechanics will come, and so will success. I've been there before. I've come back from Tommy John healthy and effectively, and there's no doubt that by the end of the season I will do the same."
Saturday, at least, there was little indication that Harvey was close. He hit the first batter he saw, George Springer, with a pitch, eventually allowing five of the first six Astros he faced to reach base in a 37-pitch first inning. Marwin Gonzalez struck the most significant blow with a two-run double -- one of four Houston hits in the inning.
Things did not grow easier in the second for Harvey, who served up a Springer two-run homer as one of four more hits against him. Throughout the outing, Harvey's four-seam fastball ranged from 91-95 mph, much as it did during four Minor League rehab starts.
In explaining his lack of success, Harvey said he has already keyed upon a mechanical flaw in which he is relying too much on his legs to drive him toward home plate.
"It's about getting him back in shape, and getting him on the mound, and making his pitches work for him, having to locate his offspeed stuff a little better," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Those are the things that are key when you're pitching. And when you haven't pitched in [2 1/2] months, it's not going to happen overnight."
Since as far back as Spring Training 2016, when he experienced numbness in his throwing hand, Harvey has battled near-constant injury issues. Doctors eventually diagnosed Harvey with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that required surgery to remove a rib. He missed the final two months of that season, then stumbled to a 5.25 ERA in his first 13 starts this year.
Only then did Harvey receive a diagnosis of a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. Though he did not require another operation, Harvey missed 2 1/2 months due to the resulting shoulder weakness.
He returned this week, saying he finally felt fully healthy for the first time in years. Harvey, who started the 2013 All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field, also underwent Tommy John surgery that summer. He owns a career 33-31 record.
"I know if I go out there and my mechanics are on point, and I feel comfortable walking off the mound that I threw the ball the way I wanted to, then I know the success will be there and I know it will come," Harvey said. "I just haven't felt that in a while. … I just need that one time to click. And once it does, it will be exciting."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.