NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey may be the best pitcher in baseball.
He's definitely the most unlucky one.
Typically the offense has been the problem. This time the bullpen let him down. Harvey gave up just one run on three hits, striking out 11 (and walking none) in seven innings of work, and exited with a 4-1 lead. But five Mets relievers gave up three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth, turning a thrilling night into a demoralizing one.
Harvey tried to take his teammates off the hook after the game.
"It’s baseball, it happens," Harvey said. "Those guys go out every single day and pitch their butts off. Today just happened to be one of those days."
To be fair, the bullpen had performed well of late. In the team's previous 11 games, the relief staff had posted a 0.52 ERA, giving up just two earned runs in 34 1/3 innings.
David Aardsma, Josh Edgin and Brandon Lyon each were charged with a run in the eighth. Lyon gave up the crushing blow, with the bases loaded and two outs -- a three-run double by Ryan Zimmerman that tied the game.
Parnell was pitching for the third day in a row, but said that was not an issue. "They’re professional hitters, too," Parnell said. "They didn’t give up, and got some balls in play, and scored some runs."
The bigger question is, could Harvey have gone deeper in the game? He'd thrown 109 pitches in seven innings. Harvey has thrown more pitches than that in five of his 17 starts this season, including a season-high 121 on April 29 against the Miami Marlins.
That said, it was a humid night, and he was coming off a strenuous 23-pitch seventh inning.
Collins bristled at the notion of leaving Harvey in the game.
"It’s easy to sit here right now and we’ve lost the game, to look back in the seventh inning or the eighth inning, and say you should have left him in, or you should have made this move, should have made that move. It’s a very easy thing to say," Collins said. "Yeah, I could have left him in, no doubt about it, I could have let him throw 150 [pitches]. I decided to take him out, I thought he had enough."
Harvey confirmed he wasn't given the option of coming back out for the eighth.
"No, he said it was done," Harvey said. "The pitch count was up a little high. You never know, you don’t want to go out there and have a 10-pitch at-bat and creep up in the 130 pitches [area]. Like I said, I felt good, but that was his decision."
We may be seeing more of this the rest of the year. In 17 starts thus far, Harvey has pitched 117 innings -- at that pace, he'll make 36 starts and throw 249 innings in 2013.
That would be nearly 80 more innings than he threw in 2012 (169 1/3), in Triple-A and the majors combined.
"We gotta start being careful here," Collins said. "This guy’s throwing a lot of pitches in a lot of games, and getting us deep in a lot of games. We gotta be careful that we don’t just let him loose and overuse him."
"Whatever innings limit is on their mind, then I have no say in that," Harvey said. "Right now, 120 [innings] or around there, I’m feeling good. So that’s all I’m worried about. Taking the ball every fifth day, and whatever they decide, they decide. All I can do is prepare for each start and keep battling every fifth day."
Harvey's battled admirably for nearly half a season, leading the National League in ERA (2.00) and strikeouts (132). The end result? More no-decisions (nine) than wins (seven) and losses (one) combined.
Another fantastic performance, with nothing to show for it. It won't be the last time.