Maybe a change of scenery was all Matt Harvey needed after all.
The 29-year-old right-hander got his Cincinnati Reds career off to near perfect start Friday night in Los Angeles. Harvey was undeniably impressive. One might even say he was untouchable, or dangerously close to it, after allowing just one hit over four scoreless innings in the Reds’ 6-2 win against the Dodgers.
It was a much different looking Matt Harvey than we saw with the Mets earlier this season. That much is not up for debate. His performance there earned him a demotion to the bullpen and ultimately resulted in a falling out that led to Tuesday’s trade.
If we’re being honest, it was an improvement over just about everything Harvey has done at any point since 2016. It was the start Harvey absolutely needed as he attempts to revive his career. The only thing that would have made it better was a victory, but the Reds kept Harvey on a strict pitch limit.
Small sample size? Of course. But we can only judge what we see. What we saw from Harvey this time around seemingly justified his opinion that he can still be a starting pitcher in MLB.
With that in mind, here are a few takeaways from Harvey’s abbreviated but productive Reds debut.
Harvey was remarkably efficient
Harvey and the Reds couldn’t have scripted a better outing. Harvey came out looking sharp. More important, he looked fresh. His fastball reached 95-96 mph in the early going, and his command was spot on. Harvey needed just 26 pitches to get through the first two innings, and he would have been even more efficient if not for some poor Reds defense.
Harvey ended up needing just 55 pitches (32 strikes) to get through four innings. He struck out two and walked none.
He pitched around a potentially damaging miscue
Harvey started the game by retiring the first four Dodgers batters he faced. It should have been five straight, but Cody Bellinger’s towering fly ball landed harmlessly between right fielder Scott Schebler and center fielder Billy Hamilton. It was a routine play, but apparently Schebler lost it in the lights.
Bellinger hustled to third on the play and was awarded a triple. That put him in prime scoring position with just one out. That’s where Harvey would leave him after getting a called strike three on Chris Taylor and retiring Max Muncy on a fly ball to center.
Dealing with traffic and avoiding big innings is one problem that’s been plaguing Harvey. It was not a problem Friday night.
There was nothing fancy about it
Only two of Harvey’s 12 outs were strikeouts. Maybe that can be a concern later on. For tonight, it’s the 12 outs that matter most. Harvey wasn’t overpowering, but the Dodgers didn’t make a lot of hard contact either. He pitched aggressively and the outs followed.
Was Harvey this good, or were the Dodgers that bad?
The truth might lie somewhere in the middle. It’s no secret that the Dodgers offense has been struggling of late, particularly with runners in scoring position. If they were clicking offensively, chances are this outing looks a lot different for Harvey.
Again though, given that Harvey was allowing nearly a run per inning (7.00 ERA in 33 innings) coming into this outing, he clearly did a few things right.
What’s next for Matt Harvey?
The Reds will head to San Francisco on Monday. It’s expected that Harvey will make his next start on regular starter’s rest, which would line him up to start the series finale there on Wednesday.
Reds manager Jim Riggleman will likely give us the official word on Saturday. Given Harvey’s success Friday night, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his pitch count elevated a bit in that game too.
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