Although Matt Harvey looked nearly perfect through his first two major league starts, it was obvious that there would be some bumps in the road as his career continued. It was still more than a little surprising that his first poor start came against the light-hitting San Diego Padres in extremely-pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Mets didn't score in the top of the first inning, and Harvey got into trouble quickly in the bottom half. Everth Cabrera doubled with one out, and Chase Headley hit a home run to right field — it landed on the mesh between the outfield fence and the concrete at the front of the seats — to give the Padres a quick two-run lead.
Will Venable hit a leadoff triple in the second inning, but Harvey escaped unscathed thanks to a pair of pop-up outs and an inning-endin strikeout. The third inning, however, was a different story.
Harvey retired the first two batters he faced, but he walked Headley, who then advanced to second base on a Rob Johnson passed ball. Carlos Quentin hit a deep double to plate Headley, and Yonder Alonso followed up with a long home run to center field. The Padres were up by five, and Harvey was clearly in the midst of a bad start.
To his credit, Harvey worked around more trouble in the fourth inning after runners were on first and third with nobody out. Jason Marquis bunted, presumably in an attempt to advance the runner on first to second, but the bunt went right back to Harvey, who flipped the ball to Johnson to get Cameron Maybin out at the plate. Harvey then notched a pair of strikeouts to get out of the inning. He threw a scoreless fifth inning in which he gave up only a double to Alonso, and his day was done.
Harvey, of course, has been pitching under a microscope since his promotion to the big leagues. Had any other Mets starting pitcher had the same outing that Harvey did this afternoon — except for perhaps Johan Santana's first start off the disabled list this Saturday — it would not have garnered as much attention.
Yes, Harvey struggled today, but through three starts, he has a 3.86 ERA. He's also recorded 23 strikeouts and 7 walks in 16.1 innings, good enough for a 3.14 FIP. There's a long way to go before Harvey's status as a major league pitcher is defined, but the early returns are still quite good.
As for the rest of the team, well, they didn't have enough offensive firepower to put together a five-run comeback. Ronny Cedeno, who pinch hit for Harvey in the sixth, hit a two-run home run to continue his surprisingly productive season at the plate. In 124 plate appearances, Cedeno is hitting .297/.366/.459 with a .359 wOBA. It's a small sample, but each rate a massive improvement over his career norms.
The Mets drew a bit closer in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Jason Bay, but the 5-3 deficit was as close as they would come in today's game.
Manny Acosta threw a scoreless inning, but Ramon Ramirez was disappointing once again as he allowed two runs in one-and-two-thirds innings of work. Elvin Ramirez recorded the final out of the eighth inning on one pitch, which means he didn't allow a walk.
The Mets are off tomorrow, but they will host the Marlins at Citi Field on Tuesday at 7:10 pm. Jon Niese will start for New York, and Wade LeBlanc will start for Miami.
Big winners: Ronny Cedeno, +5.0% WPA
Big losers: Matt Harvey, -31.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Ike Davis's double in the seventh inning, +5.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Chase Headley's first-inning home run, -18.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -35.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: -14.9% WPA
GWRBI!: Carlos Quentin