The on-field portion of Matt Harvey’s day at Citi Field began with the usual warm-up tosses in the bullpen and the stroll to the dugout, his mind refusing to play tricks and steer him toward the home side. He walked to the mound after the top of the first inning, heard the ovation, noticed Mets fans standing and holding up signs and tipped his cap.
The moment could have overwhelmed Harvey, but he retired the side in order on 13 pitches and headed to the bench.
The hope, of course, was that he’d dominate the Mets, they’d break down their struggles later and conclude that you’ve just got to tip your hat.
Sometimes, a feel-good story messes up a few of the chapters.
The first four Mets reached base in the second inning, with Kevin Pillar’s two-run triple the biggest blow, and the Orioles were swept in the short series with a 7-1 loss.
Harvey left after allowing a season-high five runs in 4 1/3 innings and two more counted against him with Shawn Armstrong in relief. Mets starter Taijaun Walker carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth and the Orioles fell a season-high five games below .500 at 16-21. The Mets have won seven in a row.
The team is off Thursday before hosting the Yankees and Rays.
Harvey allowed three earned runs in his three previous starts and the Mets matched it in the second. He tied his season high with eight hits and was done after his 78th pitch resulted in a walk for Pete Alonso.
Dominic Smith had an RBI double off Armstrong and Alonso came home on José Peraza’s infield hit. Armstrong has let nine of 11 inherited runners score.
“There was a lot of excitement, a lot of memories,” Harvey said in his Zoom call, which attracted a large number of New York writers. “Obviously, there’s been so many ups and down here at this ballpark and this organization that I didn’t really know what to expect, and what the fans gave me out there was pretty incredible. I was holding back tears. I’m not going to lie about that. It was pretty hard holding them back. It reminded me really a lot of the good memories, and coming off the field with an ovation like that, it brought a lot back and it was very special to me, something I’ll never forget.”
“Obviously, I wish things went differently, I wish the score was flip-flopped. My job is to go out and keep runs off the board and obviously I didn’t do that. Regardless of who you’re playing, the situation. It was a rough one. I felt like I made some decent pitches and they were tough. They made me work, they hit the ball the other way. Kind of went against their scouting report that I had used from their last previous games in the last week, week and a half. They did a good job, they hit the ball where we weren’t and made me work. Got a couple timely hits, especially in the second and third. Just kind of always had traffic, so it was one of those where balls weren’t hit very hard, but they got some runs across.
“It’s one of those where I’m not going to kill myself about it, beat myself up, I guess you could say. It’s one of those where I made some pitches and guys hit it where we weren’t and they put runs on the board. I’ve got to keep working hard and keep pounding the zone and hopefully that weaker contact goes to our position players.”
Keegan Akin made his 2021 debut in the sixth and immediately struck out Walker, who left the bat on his shoulder again and should have left it in the dugout. Akin tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
The Orioles avoided the shutout in the seventh after plate umpire Carlos Torres gifted a walk to Freddy Galvis. Rio Ruiz singled and Galvis scored on Chance Sisco’s roller up the first base line.
Harvey received another ovation as he batted with two runners on base and two outs in the second inning and took a called third strike.
The bottom half of the inning also brought fans to their feet.
Alonso doubled, Smith singled and they scored on Pillar’s triple, the ball bouncing off the fence in left-center field after eluding Cedric Mullin’s leaping attempt. Mullins couldn’t duplicate Pillar’s catch at the same spot in the first inning that robbed Austin Hays.
Peralta singled on a ground ball into left field and the Orioles trailed 3-0.
Galvis made a sliding backhanded stop on Tomás Nido’s grounder to get the force at second base, and Harvey struck out Walker and Jonathan Villar.
The game didn’t get away from Harvey, but it veered in a manner that he avoided on his trip from the bullpen.
“I think he threw a ton of strikes,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I thought he got beat there in the second inning on some soft contact singles and then the one mistake to Pillar. But he was giving up a lot of soft contact early. I think give them some credit for their hitting, too. They beat the shift a couple times on us, stayed on the ball pretty well going the opposite field. We drove a few that they made some great defensive plays on, really changed the game early. I think he had a ton of adrenaline going, too. In the fifth inning, he lost it there a little bit, but I thought he was throwing the ball really well early in the game. I just thought he got beat by some soft contact and some good batting by the Mets.
“I haven’t talked to him, so I’m guessing about the adrenaline, but I’m assuming that there was, and I though the ovation that the Mets crowd gave to him going to the mound and when he went to hit was really cool. I’m sure it appreciated that. I thought it was a class move on their part. I’m sure he wishes the results were different, but I think it was a big deal for him to pitch here.”
Hays also was denied in the third on right fielder Michael Conforto’s diving stop.
A couple of loud outs followed Francisco Lindor’s leadoff single in the third. Lindor swiped second base and Smith lined a 94 mph sinker into left field for a 4-0 lead.
The Mets were 4-for-4 with runners in scoring position and Harvey had thrown 52 pitches.
Harvey retired the side in order in the fourth and recorded his 800th and 801st career strikeouts. He needed only 11 pitches. But Villar led off the fifth with a single, stole second base, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Conforto’s single up the middle.
The Orioles weren’t coming back from this one.
The Dark Knight’s ERA rose from 3.60 to 4.81. The seven earned are the most since he allowed eight with the Angels on May 23, 2019.
The primary topic postgame wasn’t about runs as much as the reminiscing.
“It was hard,” Harvey said. “This is a very special place to me. I’d like to say I gave everything I had here, especially in that 2015 run. It was really something special and I left it all out there for everybody - for the fans, for our teammates. That was a big year for us as a team and for the city of New York. Those memories definitely came in when I got some cheers and go the standing ovation. It was absolutely incredible.”
And perhaps a little bit surprising.
“Obviously, the last couple years weren’t the way I wanted them to go,” Harvey said. “There was a lot of, between the injuries and I think me getting in my own way and causing some of those problems, I feel for them. I feel for the fans. Maybe I let them down. I guess it’s fair to say I would understand if they did (boo). I’m extremely happy that they didn’t.
“Last couple years have been extremely humbling and the last couple years, especially here, have been extremely humbling and I’ve learned from my mistakes. And finally being healthy and trying to kind of reinvent myself and get back out there hasn’t been easy, but besides today I think things have been going in the right direction, so I’m not going to beat myself up over a bad outing. But obviously I wish it was different. But I’m healthy and I’ve learned from my mistakes and just trying to keep putting myself in the right position to keep playing this game.”
Trey Mancini’s two-out double in the first inning was the lone Orioles hit until Mullins led off the sixth with a single. Mancini reached on an infield hit, but Ryan Mountcastle grounded into a 5-3 double play.
Two walks and an infield hit loaded the bases against Mets reliever Robert Gsellman in the eighth, but Maikel Franco lined out.
Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells had two scoreless innings.