Harvey retired the first 13 batters he faced, then fell apart in what became a 7-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Harvey surrendered five runs on six hits and three walks in 5⅔ innings. He dropped to 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA. He has struck out a modest nine batters in 17⅓ innings this season.
“I thought he was going to have a big year,” Warthen said. “I still think he’s going to have a big, big year. I think right now, if we’ve ever seen Matt Harvey press, this might be the time. I mean, he’s trying to force the issue right now.”
Said Harvey: “Nobody’s more frustrated right now than I am -- not just today, but the last couple of starts. I think there’s a lot of things that went wrong. There’s a lot more baseball to be played, which is good. Obviously I have to redraw things up tomorrow and get back after it. Like I said, nobody’s more disappointed than I am.”
Manager Terry Collins said he is at a loss to explain why Harvey has started games strongly, then fallen apart in the middle innings. Seven of the 12 runs Harvey has surrendered this season have come in the sixth inning.
“He’s cruising along, and all of a sudden it just disappears fast,” Collins said. “That’s on my mind a little bit. I’ve seen it with guys, but not guys of his caliber.”
Warthen believes he understands the reason. The pitching coach suggested that Harvey has a mechanical flaw while working from the stretch. Warthen described the issue as Harvey “collapsing” on his back side rather than staying more upright and then “muscling” the baseball rather than throwing fluidly.
“We worked on it the last bullpen,” Warthen said. “Still, you get into a pressure situation, you do fall back into bad habits. This has been Matt’s biggest bugaboo since I’ve had him -- being able to stay up. He’s trying to be quick to home plate. We’re trying to give our catchers a chance [to throw out base stealers]. In doing so, he collapses the back side and ends up pushing a lot of baseballs, or spiking them.”
That can explain less-than-sizzling velocity with Harvey, according to Warthen. Harvey’s average fastball velocity was 94.0 miles per hour on Saturday. He averaged 96.6 mph last April, even while just returning from Tommy John surgery.
Warthen made the analogy to a golf swing. In essence, you have more success when you relax than when you muscle up.
“Basically, he’s trying to throw hard,” Warthen said.
Harvey insists that he feels fine physically. He was asked about a potential hangover from last year’s workload -- which involved pitching through Nov. 1 as well as logging the most innings ever of a pitcher in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
“I personally don’t know, but my body feels fine,” Harvey said. “My arm feels fine.”