Sunday night, it looked awful.
Here were the Mets, in the middle of a pennant race, removing their top starting pitcher from a 1-0 game he was dominating, and watching a needed win turn into an 11-2 blowout loss to the New York Yankees. Here were the Mets, who designed this newest Harvey plan at least in part in hopes of having him to pitch in the playoffs, watching that plan cost them a win they might have needed to get to those playoffs.
The Mets still have a six-game lead over the Washington Nationals, with just 13 games remaining and a favorable upcoming schedule. But even if Sunday's loss didn't dramatically lessen their chances of winning the National League East, it sure did raise the level of drama surrounding the Mets and their ace.
Even though the Mets had skipped Harvey starts before, this was the first time they began a game with a plan to pull him early, no matter how well he was pitching. Manager Terry Collins was going to allow Harvey just five innings, with the outside chance he could pitch a sixth had his pitch count stayed extremely low.
As it was, Harvey's pitch count through five innings was low (77), but not extreme enough. He allowed no runs and one infield hit, with one walk and seven strikeouts.
And he was done. So were the Mets, at least in this game. They gave up five runs in an ugly sixth inning, as their fans seethed in the stands and their manager seemed to seethe in the dugout.
"You don't want to know what I was thinking," Collins said. "You might want to know, but I can't tell you."
He says he's on board with the plan. Harvey is said to be on board with it, too, although he wouldn't directly answer that or any other question in his brief postgame remarks.
"More than anything, I want to be out there," he said. "I want to be out there more than anything. I know where I want to be, and that's on a mound, pitching for the Mets."
He was on the mound Sunday, but not in the way an ace would normally be out there in a pennant race. He'll be out there again, if the Mets stick to the latest plan, maybe two more times in the regular season but quite possibly for fewer than five innings the next time.
Imagine if the Mets held only a one-game lead in the division. Imagine if the lead shrinks dramatically by the next time Harvey goes to the mound.
Or imagine if the Mets have Harvey start a playoff game, then pull him with a one-run lead and a low pitch count after five innings.
"I think the situation would be a lot different," Harvey said.
Would it be?
"As I sit here today, I'm pretty sure it won't happen [that way]," Collins said. "Will it happen? I can't answer that. That's too far down the line."
Given how many times the Harvey plan has changed already, what would an answer today be worth, anyway?
Already, this plan, designed as a compromise between the Mets and agent Scott Boras in consultation with Harvey's doctors, put Collins in an unusual and uncomfortable position Sunday.
The Mets had given Harvey a 1-0 lead on back-to-back Ruben Tejada and David Wright doubles in the first inning. When it was still 1-0 in the fourth, with Harvey nearing his limit and his spot in the order coming up with two out and two on, Collins considered pinch hitting. He didn't, because he thought one more inning from Harvey might allow him to set his bullpen up to preserve the lead.
"We never got there," Collins said.
Collins called the situation a "perfect storm," because Harvey was pitching so well and the lead in the game was so slim.
"You couldn't have set it up any worse than it was," he said.
Yes, actually you could have. Because the Mets still have a substantial lead in the division, Sunday's game was important but perhaps not crucial. If you assume that this Harvey plan will preserve enough innings that he can pitch in the playoffs, you could also argue that what happened Sunday was worth it.
That assumes, of course, that you believe the innings limits themselves make sense for a pitcher in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. But that's a whole other argument.
The limits are in place. The latest Harvey plan remains in place.
Sunday, it looked awful.