NEW YORK -- Head down, Matt Harvey began to walk off the mound even before manager Terry Collins arrived to take the ball.
Harvey, and the booing Mets fans, had seen enough.
The sudden descent of the former ace hit a new low Thursday night when Harvey was hammered for a career-worst nine runs as the Washington Nationals routed New York 9-1.
"Everybody saw the game. It's pretty obvious what happened," Harvey said. "I'm not happy about it and I know nobody else is."
"Got to pick up tomorrow and, like I said all along, start over and look for answers," he said.
Not much time to find them, either. His next start is scheduled for Tuesday night on the road against the NL East-leading Nationals.
"It's my job to go out there and keep working and try to figure this thing out," he said.
As for what's wrong, he said: "At this point, I have no idea."
Harvey (3-6) lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his shortest start in the majors, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He exited with a 5.77 ERA.
When he was pulled, he got a few sympathetic pats on the back from teammates in the dugout before heading straight down the tunnel to the clubhouse.
"There's two types of people in this game -- ones who've been humbled and ones that will be. And if you've never been humbled, you don't know how to get through it," Collins said.
"I think, as you're coming up in baseball, you need to get humbled, so you can learn how to fight through it. And we're trying to fight this fight with him," he said.
Stephen Strasburg (7-0) struck out 10 in six innings and sent the Mets to their sixth loss in seven games.
In early 2013, in a memorable game for Mets fans, the crowd chanted "Harvey's better!" over and over as he outpitched Strasburg. They matched up again in 2015 and Harvey won that time, too.
This time, there was no doubt which one of the 27-year-olds who's come back from Tommy John surgery was better.
Daniel Murphy hit a two-run homer against his former team, connecting on an 0-2 pitch from Harvey in the first. The Nationals broke away by scoring seven times in the third -- the burst included a hit by Bryce Harper, who had been 0 for 21 lifetime against Harvey until the sharp single.
Ben Revere lined a two-run triple on Harvey's final pitch.
Harvey's velocity has been down, and he's said he hasn't felt comfortable on the mound. The Mets have become increasingly concerned he's lost his way, especially after his heavy workload last year as they reached the World Series in his first season back from elbow surgery.
Harvey said he's fine physically.
"First thing we've got to do right now, I think, is to build up some confidence, someway, somehow," Collins said. "I truly believe this is a game where you got a trust yourself, you've got to believe in yourself."
"When you don't have that, it's tough to compete at this level," he said.
Before this game, Collins said he hoped the energy and adrenaline of a marquee matchup vs. Strasburg would help Harvey "flip the switch" and regain his form.
Rather than worry about his proper arm angle and landing spot, Collins wanted Harvey to simply "go pitch."
"He'll be great again. I just hope it starts tonight," Collins said three hours before gametime.
HARPER VS. HARVEY
Harper had struck out seven times and drawn three walks while starting out hitless in 21 at-bats against Harvey. The 0 for 21 had matched the longest skid at the start of a career by an active hitter vs. an active pitcher. The other ongoing instances, from the Elias Sports Bureau: David Freese vs. Felix Hernandez, Jed Lowrie vs. Hector Santiago, Alexei Ramirez vs Edwin Jackson and Gordon Beckham vs. Wade Davis.
"I'll take any record in the book," Harper kidded.
TAKE A BREAK
There was a brief delay while Washington batted in the fourth. The umpires talked to Mets reliever Logan Verrett and Collins. The cause was a problem with the scoreboard.
Mets: 1B Lucas Duda was back in the lineup after sitting out two games because of a stiff back. He went 0 for 4, striking out three times.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (2-3, 3.10) tries again to beat the Marlins. He's 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA against them this year going into this start at Miami.
Mets: LHP Steven Matz (5-1, 2.86) returns to the rotation to face visiting Milwaukee. He missed a turn over the weekend in Colorado because of elbow soreness.
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