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Morning Briefing: Happy Matt Harvey Day ... while it lasts

NEW YORK --

FIRST PITCH: It's Matt Harvey Day for the New York Mets … at least for part of the game.

ESPN's Buster Olney reports that Harvey will have two starts of about 70 pitches apiece, including on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball against the New York Yankees. Harvey then will have a shorter start, possibly three innings, as the regular season winds down.

Olney reports that the decision resulted from a series of phone conversations between general manager Sandy Alderson, agent Scott Boras, Dr. James Andrews and Harvey.

Still, manager Terry Collins insisted late Saturday: "There's no pitch count involved. I'm just going to limit his workload, and that'll be my decision when I think he should come out. Obviously if he's working very, very hard, it might be earlier. If he's cruising, it might be a little bit later. He's not going to go deep into the game. We'll just see how he does and how they react to him."

Harvey (12-7, 2.88 ERA) opposes left-hander CC Sabathia (4-9, 4.43) in Sunday's 8:08 p.m. ET rubber game.

Harvey sits at 171 2/3 innings this season. He last pitched on Sept. 8, when he was charged with seven runs in 5 1/3 innings in what became an 8-7 win against the Washington Nationals in D.C.

"He's Matt Harvey. I always feel good. When I come to the ballpark and he's pitching, there's a smile on my face," Collins said. "And he gets up for these kind of games. You look any night he's pitched, especially Sunday night games on national TV -- big audience, big crowd, the Yankees. He loves to pitch against the Yankees. And I expect him to step up. Unfortunately, I'm going to have some reins on him."

Despite Collins using Juan Uribe as a pinch hitter for Lucas Duda against a southpaw on Saturday, the manager said Duda will start on Sunday against the left-handed Sabathia.

SATURDAY'S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Noah Syndergaard surrendered a three-run homer to Carlos Beltran in the first inning, then retired 12 straight batters. However, Michael Pineda blanked the Mets for 5 1/3 innings and the Yankees went on to a 5-0 win on Saturday at Citi Field. The Mets' magic number remained eight. The Nationals beat the Miami Marlins to reduce the Mets' division lead to seven games with 14 to play. Syndergaard also surrendered a two-run homer to Brian McCann in the sixth. "If you look at the tape at all, he made two bad pitches," Collins said. "He made the pitch to Beltran. He tried to go up and in and left it on the plate. He tried to go down and away to McCann and left it on the plate." Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Record and at MLB.com.

  • Assuming the Mets are in the postseason, Syndergaard will be in the rotation, Collins declared Saturday. Collins did not specify his full rotation for the expected Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Jacob deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard obviously are locks, with Steven Matz seemingly the proper choice to round out the rotation. Matz has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his five career starts. That would result in Bartolo Colon serving as a multi-inning reliever, if a starting pitcher has a short outing. Read more in the Daily News.

  • The Mets plan to skip deGrom on Tuesday and instead will use Logan Verrett that night against the Atlanta Braves. DeGrom is not subject to a tight innings cap, but has struggled of late and potentially can use the rest, the Mets believe. Read more in the Record, Daily News, Newsday and at MLB.com.

  • Yoenis Cespedes is hitless in his last 17 at-bats. Even Mets staff wonders if getting hit by a pitch from Miami's Tom Koehler last week helped cause the rut. Cespedes declined to speak to reporters postgame Saturday. Columnist David Lennon in Newsday opines about that silence: "Even with the intervention of Mets PR officials, who tried to convey the importance to Cespedes of answering a few questions -- especially during the max exposure of the Subway Series -- he declined. That's his prerogative, of course. But we've seen a ton of talented players go through much longer periods of soul-searching and still have steel skin. Scenarios like these aren't written into $180 million contracts. There's no speaking clause. It is something to consider, however, when you're a New York owner or general manager weighing the entire package, wondering how somebody will perform over the length of a sizable deal." Read more at MLB.com.

  • Tyler Clippard remained unavailable for a second straight day Saturday with back tightness.

  • Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post suggests Beltran deserves to be thought of more fondly in Queens.

  • Read more on Harvey's upcoming start against the Yankees in Newsday.

  • Read more on Syndergaard's outing in Newsday.

  • Six out of eight scouts prefer Michael Conforto over Greg Bird if forced to choose, Joel Sherman writes in the Post.

  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear prefers its Subway Series hype somewhere east of August.

BIRTHDAYS: Jason Bay turns 37. ... Dave Gallagher is 55. ... Dennis Ribant was born on this date in 1941

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU'RE UP: Which four pitchers should comprise the Mets' postseason rotation?