Matt Harvey finally stumbles, but so did Gooden

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Matt Harvey. (BuffaloBisons.com)
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For Matt Harvey, pitching prospect and new hope for the New York Mets, the surprising thing wasn't that he struggled in his third major league start Sunday against the San Diego Padres. The surprising thing was that it took him three starts to look human.

Harvey allowed a pair of home runs, and five runs over five innings in the Mets' 7-3 loss to the Padres. 

What was remarkable about Harvey's first two starts—an 11-strikeout performance in his debut, and an arguably stronger all-around game in his second start—was that he showed consistent command of his pitches that he rarely showed during his time in Triple-A. Sunday was more typical. Not only did the changeup, one  of his work-in-progress pitches along with his curveball, hurt him repeatedly, he also had difficulty commanding his fastball.

This is where Matt Harvey is right now. In his final ten Triple-A starts, he walked four hitters in three of them. In a fourth, his final start at Triple-A prior to his callup, he was knocked around for six runs over five innings. In an organization with fewer major league needs, he'd probably still be honing his craft in the minors.

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But this is not to say that poor results are guaranteed, or even likely, to follow. Harvey has displayed an arsenal of pitches that gets major league hitters to swing and miss; he struck out five on Sunday, even with greatly compromised command. His strikeout rate over three starts of 12.67 per nine innings would lead the league.

Dwight Gooden got knocked out in the fourth inning of his second start back in 1984; in four of his next seven starts, he struck out at least ten, punctuated by a 14-strikeout performance against the Dodgers on May 25. By then, Gooden starts had become appointment viewing.

Harvey stumbled Sunday, but his future starts may yet turn out to be events, too.

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