Harvey sharp in final ’12 start, but bullpen falters

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NEW YORK — Terry Collins was the Mets’ Minor League field coordinator when the organization drafted Matt Harvey seventh overall in 2010. Collins did not see Harvey pitch competitively that summer, but after becoming manager a year later, he began reading regular reports about the youngster’s rapid progress. Scouts gushed and they raved, and Collins caught glimpses of his own this spring.

Still, none of that prepared him for what would come next. Nothing prepared Collins for the success — at times, the dominance — that Harvey would enjoy as a rookie, capping his two-month joyride with seven one-hit innings Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies, a defeat that wasn’t the least bit his fault.

“We saw a different player when he got called up than anybody else we’ve seen,” Collins said. “All of the reports and all of the things we saw last spring certainly is not a true indication of the product. And when he got up here, we saw the product.”

That product was on display Wednesday at Citi Field for the final time in 2012, with the Mets ending Harvey’s season before he can tack any more innings onto his already unprecedented workload. Perhaps reaching back for something extra, Harvey struck out the final two batters he faced on the season on 97- and 96-mph fastballs.

But as has become their custom, the Mets did precious little to support him, and a one-run lead evaporated when substitute closer Josh Edgin served up Ryan Howard’s game-winning two-run homer in the ninth. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Edgin walked Chase Utley and grooved a belt-high fastball that Howard sent into the Pepsi Porch.

“I have to give props out to Chase first,” Howard said. “He had a huge at-bat. If he doesn’t have that at-bat, I’m not in that situation. I just caught up to a fastball and was able to get a big hit.”

“That’s what he’s paid to do,” Edgin said. “He’s a big guy, paid to hit home runs. I gave him a meatball, so he’s going to do it.”

Harvey threw seven innings, whiffing seven and allowing his only hit on a homer to Jimmy Rollins, the first batter of the game. Along the way, the rookie mowed down 12 consecutive Phillies in the middle innings, lowering his season ERA to 2.73.

With his season now complete, that is the number that will be stamped on next year’s baseball card.

“Part of the reason I don’t want to stop pitching is because I have so much fun with these guys,” Harvey said. “Even though we’re struggling right now, it’s still a big league ballclub. Being up here for the first time and getting to see how everyone plays the game every day, it’s been the biggest excitement for me. I’m going to miss it. The last two weeks are going to be tough.”

The Mets supported Harvey with a scant bit of offense, scratching out two runs against Phillies starter Cole Hamels despite striking out 10 times in six innings against the lefty. Three innings after Daniel Murphy cracked Hamels for an RBI single, David Wright gave the Mets their first lead with a solo homer to right-center field.

But it was not enough, preventing Harvey from winning for the fourth time in 10 starts.

“I wish we could have gotten a win for him,” Collins said. “But Matt Harvey ought to spend the winter feeling pretty good about himself.”

Harvey’s win-loss record is indeed misleading. When he looks back at that baseball card, the rookie will see that over 59 1/3 innings, he struck out 70, allowed 42 hits and walked 26. Only four other starting pitchers in the modern era struck out at least a batter per inning while spending their rookie eligibility and posting an ERA lower than Harvey’s 2.73 mark. Mets fans will recognize Dwight Gooden as one of them.

“I left it all out there,” Harvey said, calling his final start “a sad moment.”

That said, no one around the Mets clubhouse has been shy about saying that Harvey can and should improve, particularly with his command and efficiency. Harvey himself is a leading voice in that chorus.

But for the Mets’ most-hyped prospect since Mike Pelfrey, Act I could not have gone much better.

“He’s got an inner confidence about him that you don’t see from a lot of younger players,” Wright said of Harvey, a lock to open next season in the rotation. “In Spring Training, he was not wide-eyed. There was no awe. He works incredibly hard. He’s relatively quiet but he gets along with everybody. I think it’s a great mix of that confidence — not a cockiness, but a confidence — and also a feeling that he knows he belongs.”

 By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

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