PHOENIX – Hunter Harvey understands why people will immediately make the connection, believing he blew the Nationals’ 3-0 lead in the eighth inning Thursday because he was pitching for the third straight day for the first time in his career.
The Nationals reliever insists there was no connection between those two facts.
“No, I don’t think it had anything to do with being the third day,” he said. “I just didn’t execute. That could happen when you’re fresh or when you’re not fresh.”
Harvey had already pitched Tuesday, recording five big outs on 21 pitches to help lead the Nationals to victory over the Cubs. He had also pitched Wednesday, tossing a scoreless eighth on 14 pitches to preserve his team’s 2-1 lead and eventual victory.
Through it all, the 28-year-old right-hander felt strong. And when it came time to inform manager Davey Martinez about his availability for Thursday’s game, he didn’t hesitate to offer his services if the situation called for it.
Harvey felt confident saying he could pitch because after years of injuries, he’s learned how to tell if he’s in danger of something going wrong physically or not.
“Just from the past, all the injuries I’ve had, I kind of know if something ain’t right,” he said. “I had a little bit of soreness yesterday, but nothing that really concerned me. So I knew I’d be good to go.”
Summoned with two on and nobody out in the eighth with the Nats up three runs, Harvey proceeded to give up a double to Trey Mancini. He struck out Nelson Velazquez, but then gave up a long fly ball to Miguel Amaya that brought home another run, then a two-out RBI single to Nick Hoerner that tied the game. When he returned to the dugout at inning’s end, having thrown 20 pitches, he slammed his glove and cursed at himself, not for offering to pitch for the third straight day but for blowing the lead his teammates worked seven-plus innings to amass.
Once the emotions wore off, Harvey actually was pleased in one key respect: He had pitched three straight days for the first time and didn’t feel in danger of getting hurt. Given his career trajectory, that was a big deal.
Harvey appreciated the trust his manager showed him, and Martinez appreciates how his reliever has consistently told him the truth about his health since joining the club last season.
“He’s been very honest with me, even since I had him last year,” Martinez said. “He’ll come up to me right away and say I need a day. When he says that, I absolutely know he’s not feeling that great. But my biggest thing is to have them in June, July and August. So we’ve got to be smart about some things.”
That will include holding both Harvey and closer Kyle Finnegan (who also pitched three straight days) out of tonight’s series opener against the Diamondbacks, no matter the situation.
Harvey won’t complain if his manager takes the cautious route with him. But hopes Martinez won’t feel the need to be excessively cautious as the reliever begins to establish his ability to stay healthy.
“I’d understand, especially with my past,” Harvey said. “But I think they trust me now. They know I’m not going to lie to them if they ask. We talked about that last year when my forearm was flaring up early in the year. I pretty much went straight to Davey and told him, and we got the MRI and you saw what happened. (Harvey went on the injured list.) So they know if it wasn’t feeling good, I’d say something. But I’ve been feeling good, bouncing back good. And even today, it’s not as bad as I thought.”