Mets' supporting cast needs to perform like Harvey
NEW YORK -- So, the National League nearly cracked the 2013 edition of Matt Harvey. It was the Reds who came close, the second-place Reds who nearly shoved a whole number to the right of the hyphen in Harvey's record Wednesday afternoon, the proficient Reds who were on the verge of accomplishing what some opponent is bound to accomplish before Harvey's scheduled start July 16 at Citi Field.
Even All-Star Game starters don't carry something-and-0 records into mid-July.
So now we have to wait till Tuesday night to see whether Marvelous Harv can avoid a loss once again. For now, the Teflon is working effectively -- 10 starts, five victories, no losses. And the Mets' record in his 10 games is 7-3.
However, the first-place team in town is to provide the competition Tuesday night. And wouldn't whatever latent Steinbrenner personality traits still exist in the Yankees just revel in being the first to deface Harvey's record? Bragging rights be damned.
But before the Yankees and interboro Interleague intracity baseball become issues for these perplexed Mets, they play three weekend games against the Braves. The first one can be identified thusly -- "The first game following a Harvey start." The Mets must look at it warily. They don't win the first games following Harvey starts. At least, they haven't yet.
It's a bit of a strange phenomenon. Arcane, too. An 0-9 record in the games that follow a particular pitcher's starts. Who tracks that sort of thing?
In the strange and challenging world of the Mets, all is considered, measured and, too often, lamented. What can be expected of them Friday night when the NL East-leading Braves visit? Kris Medlen is to start for the Braves, and he has a 1-5 record.
So the Mets have reason to be encouraged?
Jeremy Hefner starts for the Mets; so they don't.
Hefner's record is the opposite of Harvey's, and the team has lost each of his nine starts. That 0-for has more to do with his 5.00 ERA and the Mets' propensity to shoot themselves in the foot than with anything relating to the timing of Harvey's starts.
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Life as a Mets has to be -- to quote Clyde Frazier -- distressing and depressing. It's one thing to be between the rock and a hard place; something else when the rock is granite and both side are closing in. These Mets have lost 18 of 25 since the last time their winning percentage was higher than .500. And those 25 games have included eight against the underwhelming Marlins, White Sox and Cubs. They split the eight.
For most of the last trip and two games into the current homestand, the Mets have been guilty of enough poor execution to justify the 3-6 record -- David Wright dropping the ball after making a tag, Rick Ankiel's failure to make a makeable catch in center field in his first Mets game, foolish baserunning by John Buck, Marlon Byrd not advancing on a long fly ball, Ruben Tejada's throwing error in Chicago, Wright's between-the-wickets error Tuesday, Dillon Gee allowing a home run by the opposing pitcher, the general failure to advance runners and all the minuses provided by Ike Davis.
Then, Wednesday with Marvelous Harv pitching -- and perhaps pitching just well enough to lose, the Mets played well enough to win -- and lost anyway. They're 10 games under now. They didn't reach that level until their 124th game last season and never bottomed out to that degree in 2010 or '11.
This is the time and place to ask "Which way is up?" and pose the question to Mets folks who don't wear Mets uniforms. Terry Collins is no more to blame for what we've seen of late than Kevin Collins (Mets infielder 1965, 1967-69). He would be well within his rights to borrow a candid sentence spoken in '62 by Casey Stengel following his team's 40-120 inaugural season. "I couldn't have done it without my players," he once said.
If and when Jon Niese regains his touch and ability to miss bats, Davis regains his hand-eye coordination and confidence, Gee produces near a .500 pace again and Tejada performs consistently well with his glove and bat, some sort of reversal would become possible. Without such individual changes of direction, a reversal of significance is borderline unfathomable. The talent otherwise is inadequate. These outmanned Mets will go on losing the games that follow Harvey's starts and many of those that precede his days.
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As poor as the Mets' performance has been lately, their luck was worse Wednesday. They hit six pitches on the screws that became at 'em balls. The hit that turned the game in the Reds' favor was a squib. The unseen hand has turned thumbs down on this team, too.
"Bad play ... bad luck. It makes no difference," Wright said Wednesday. "It's a result-oriented business. Doesn't matter how you lose."
Or how you win; that too must be kept in mind.
But now, how these Mets think may be part of the problem. The self-fulfilling prophecy is as dangerous as Joey Votto with a 3-0 count. The reality of what this season may become is seeping into the players' thinking. Collins indicated as much Wednesday.
"I was talking to the coaches about it before the [Wednesday] game," he said. "When we fell behind 3-0 [Tuesday], the dugout looked like we're down 6-0. But they came to the park today, ready to play. And we played well. We're in almost every game."
In a result-oriented business, "almost" routinely comes up short. The only solution, for now, appears to be to have Harvey start the day after Harvey starts. Then, if Collins implements that strategy, maybe you could bet the house. But it's the Mets. So be cautious. Better bet just a corner of the kitchen.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.