Behind Matt Harvey’s best start of the year, the Mets held off the Padres to claim a 4-3 win on Sunday (Monday in Manila) at Petco Park, and now lead the division for the first time.
Harvey (3-4) threw six innings of two-run ball while striking out a season-high 10 batters, and the Mets (19-11) now lead the Nationals by a half-game.
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Harvey, with the talented right-hander posting the highest ERA of his career through his first six starts. He lost his first three, turned in two decent outings against the Braves and Reds, but then suffered a setback last time out against the Braves.
The right has allowed an uncharacteristic amount of hits, and his strikeouts are way down too.
Harvey turned in his most dominant outing of the season against the Padres, but still encountered a hiccup in the middle innings that prevented him from turning in his first scoreless outing.
The righty turned back the clock during the first four innings, and struck out six of the first eight batters he faced. The only hit he allowed in that span occurred when opposing pitcher Andrew Cashner bunted to third base and barely beat the throw by Eric Campbell with two outs in the second.
With one out in the fifth, Harvey allowed his first non-bunt hit to Alexei Ramirez in a 3-0 game, and Christian Bethancourt followed with a mammoth two-run shot into the upper decks in left field to slice the lead to 3-2. Bethancourt jumped all over Harvey’s 93 mph fastball to get the Padres within one run.
Harvey appeared to get a favorable call from the umpires that helped him escape the inning with a lead. With two outs and a runner on, Harvey allowed a double to Jon Jay into the right field corner, and the Padres sent Cashner to try to tie the game. In a close play, home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus ruled Kevin Plawecki tagged Cashner before he tagged the plate, but the Padres challenged the call.
Reviews seemed to show Cashner touched the plate just before Plawecki applied the tag, but the replay center confirmed the call, much to the dismay of the crowd of 27,461.
Harvey tossed 102 pitches during his outing, and in a positive development he sat 94-97 with his fastball. Harvey has yet to truly demonstrate that upper 90s velocity he can showcase at times.
After Harvey departed, the usually reliable Mets bullpen almost coughed up the lead but got the job done. Jim Henderson allowed a double and balked in a run in the seventh to make it 4-3, and Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed allowed three straight hits to start the eighth to load the bases with no outs.
Antonio Bastardo struck out pinch-hitting Derek Norris, and induced a soft pop out from Melvin Upton Jr. and then fanned Alexei Ramirez to end the jam. Catcher Kevin Plawecki pumped his fist twice after Bastardo’s inning-ending strikeout that kept the Mets ahead going to the ninth inning.
Without Bartolo Colon in the lineup, the Mets couldn’t just wait around for homers, and they showed some clutch situational hitting Sunday.
They received the seemingly daily homer from Yoenis Cespedes in the third inning, but the other runs all came on two-out hits. Campbell, starting for David Wright, laced a single to center in the second for a 1-0 lead, and three batters later Cabrera also hit an RBI single to push the lead to 2-0.
After the Padres had cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth, Harvey just missed a homer by doubling off the wall in center with one out in the sixth, and Cabrera added an RBI single to center for a 4-2 lead.