Matt Harvey placed a hand on his hip and stared at the ball landing in the left field seats. Reliever Adam Plutko reached down for his glove in the bullpen, the call coming for him to warm up. Actions done almost simultaneously.
Actions that signaled another abbreviated start for Harvey.
A second chance at his former team produced a near identical result with seven runs and eight hits allowed, though tonight’s outing fell 1 1/3 innings short of Harvey’s return last month to Citi Field.
An Orioles rotation that is minus John Means due to a shoulder injury is crumbling from the top, with Harvey gone tonight after the third in a 14-1 loss before an announced crowd of 9,584 at Camden Yards.
Since being stuck with four unearned runs on May 7, Harvey has surrendered 31 earned runs (32 total) and 39 hits in 19 2/3 innings. His ERA has jumped from 3.60 to 7.41 during that span, which included his use as an opener on June 2.
None of his last seven starts have gone beyond 4 2/3 innings. The comeback story has hit a major snag.
Kevin Pillar punctuated tonight’s aggressive treatment with a three-run homer in the third, the penultimate batter faced by Harvey, and the Orioles (22-39) lost for the second time in seven June games.
Asked what he can do to improve his results, Harvey said, “If I knew right now, I would have done it tonight.”
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s been a couple of years now of being really horse(crap) and it’s frustrating. The amount of work that I’m putting in in between starts, it’s just ... Especially with the start tonight. I felt good, I had good stuff. Like I said, I missed spots. Those are the frustrating ones, where you feel good, and I was throwing 95-96 mph and I got hit around. So those are the tough ones.”
Harvey became emotional from the ovations he received in Queens, but he wasn’t in the mood for nostalgia tonight with so much of the crowd favoring the Mets. He was too busy beating himself up to embrace it.
“I play for the Orioles, I’m not here for Mets fans or anything like that,” he said. “I appreciate the Orioles fans that were here and unfortunately I pitched like (crap) and have to be better in front of my home crowd, and I guess I just have to work harder.”
The Orioles have a three-week stretch without an off-day and a rotation that’s looking more vulnerable, but manager Brandon Hyde stated on his Zoom call that Harvey won’t leave it.
“There’s no talk of taking him out of the rotation,” Hyde said, “so we’re going to give him the ball when it’s his turn and hopefully he can turn this thing around.”
When Hyde’s commitment to Harvey was relayed to the veteran right-hander, he replied, “I don’t make those decisions. I know I’ve definitely pitched pretty bad the last five, six starts, whatever it’s been. My job is to prepare and try to get better and whatever they decide, they decide. I’ve obviously been release before or DFA’d or whatnot, so I’ve been through the whole situation. There’s really not many in baseball that I haven’t been through, so my job is to prepare, and if they give me the ball, I’m going to do everything I can between this start and my next one to be better.”
For the second night in a row, Francisco Lindor walked in the first inning and Pete Alonso hit a two-run homer. Tonight’s 413-foot shot landed in the bullpen instead of the left field seats.
More loud noises.
It would have been a three-run homer, except Cedric Mullins raced into left-center field and laid out for Jonathan Villar’s fly ball, making another spectacular catch worthy of viewings on a loop. Perhaps his best, which really is saying a lot given the long list of choices.
Harvey followed a 31-pitch first with a seven-pitch second because baseball is weird that way.
Alonso came to the plate with one out in the third and Villar on second base following a double, and he dumped a single into shallow right field. Dominic Smith popped up, James McCann and Billy McKinney lined RBI singles to center, and Pillar went hard after a 94 mph fastball for a 7-1 lead.
The 23-pitch inning brought Plutko from the bullpen for the fourth. McKinney reached the flag court in the fifth.
McKinney also hit a three-run homer off Mac Sceroler in the ninth, Pillar had a solo shot off the Rule 5 pick in the eighth.
“I just thought Matt missed in the middle of the plate quite a bit,” Hyde said. “Kind of a bad pitch to Alonso there early, a walk before that and then a tough time there in that third inning. But fortunately, we have an off-day tomorrow and we’ll be able to regroup a little bit. ... Didn’t hurt our ‘pen too much tonight, but just a lot of balls in the middle of the plate that got hit.
“I just think they’re on mistakes. Look at the gun, he hit 97 (mph) tonight, the sinker was 94-97, the slider for me is inconsistent, so it’s missing a lot down and away to right-handed hitters, so kind of gets in hitter’s counts a little bit. I feel like he’s behind in the count and trying to feed fastballs and they’re on time with them.”
“It was location,” Harvey said. “Things felt good. I felt mechanically pretty sound. You just have to be better than that, you have to be ... I missed my spots in situations where I shouldn’t have and a good offense is going to make you pay and they did that tonight.”
Mullins led off the bottom of the first by slapping a single into left field and moving up when McKinney lost control of Trey Mancini’s fly ball while trying to make a sliding catch near the right field line. Ryan Mountcastle singled to left field with two outs to reduce the lead to 2-1 and extend his hitting and RBI streaks to eight consecutive games.
Mountcastle has tied Anthony Santander’s RBI streak from Aug. 6-14, 2000. The club record is 11 by Doug DeCinces from Sept. 22, 1978-April 6, 1979. Reggie Jackson owns the longest single-season streak at 10 games from July 11-23, 1976.
Taijuan Walker retired 13 batters in a row after Maikel Franco’s leadoff single in the second, a streak broken when Franco doubled with two outs in the seventh. Walker knocked down DJ Stewart’s screaming line drive and threw him out from a sitting position before Stewart came to the plate, bringing a smile from the pitcher and a panicked sprint to the mound from McCann.
Walker has faced the Orioles twice this season, both times opposing Harvey, and also produced almost identical lines. One run and four hits in seven innings on May 12 and one run and five hits in seven innings tonight.
Pillar and Mason Williams hit back-to-back home runs off Sceroler with two outs in the eighth. Alonso had an RBI double in the ninth after the Orioles misplayed a popup in shallow left and McKinney put a little more tilt on a lopsided score with his three-run shot.
Sceroler was making his third major league appearance and first since April 11.
Notes: The Rays are starting Ryan Yarbrough and Rich Hill in the first two games of the series at Tropicana Field. Josh Fleming will pitch Sunday, either as a starter or in bulk relief.
Kevin Smith allowed one earned run (two total) and three hits in five innings tonight with Double-A Bowie. He walked none and struck out eight, and his ERA is 1.04.