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Matt’s Not All

The clot in his bladder. The load of innings in 2015. The lack of innings in Spring Training. The to-be-expected second year after Tommy John [1] trajectory. The residual mental strain from trying to be The Man in the deciding game of the World Series and famously not succeeding. A general psychological breakdown. Something physically wrong they’re not telling us about. A reticence to come inside. An arm angle. A footing problem. An overall mechanical issue. Not loose enough. Needs to work harder. Needs to ease off. Needs a night on the town. Needs to miss a start. Needs to go down to the minors. Needs a less vocal agent. Could use a pinch between the cheek and gums. Restore the hubris. Embrace humility. Lose the nickname while you’re at it. Maybe a wee bit off the waistline, too [2].

No, I don’t know what’s wrong with Matt Harvey [3], but I do know he pitched dreadfully in a 9-1 loss [4] to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on Wednesday night, a big game that ceased to be a big game once Matt drowned in the third inning, the frame in which the Nats scored seven runs and inspired their superstar to utterances of mercy [5]. Harvey was undermined by a couple of episodes of poor fielding (Asdrubal Cabrera [6] blowing a transfer at short, Michael Conforto [7] taking up jai-alai in left), but baserunners were everywhere on his account.

When Matt trudged away from the mound with two outs in the third, having just surrendered a two-run triple to a .123 hitter — thus burying the Mets eight feet under — with him went the last shred of reflexive confidence that he’ll figure it out, he’ll come around, he’ll be fine.

Matt Harvey is not fine. It’s absurd to believe he never will be again, but it’s not a given that he’s one start away. He’s filed nine outings in 2016. One was very good. A couple were good enough. Most have been not so shy of decent that you couldn’t talk yourself down from terribly alarmed to merely concerned. Last night’s was too brutal to dismiss as an aberration considering everything that preceded it.

Every nine innings he pitches, he gives up 5.77 earned runs, and he’s not packing any other metric that suggests there’s a hidden value the naked eye is missing. The naked eye observes a pitcher easily undressed by opposing hitters. “Body language” can be folly to translate, for it presumes a slouch isn’t just a slouch and minds can be easily read, but does Matt Harvey look like Matt Harvey to you?

And while we’re rhetorically asking pressing questions of the day, do the Mets look like anything? They were no help to their pitcher on Thursday, pooling six singles for a lone run. Stephen Strasburg [8] may have been unhittable, but it’s hard to tell when the lineup he’s facing hasn’t been hitting. Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez [9], Max Scherzer [10] and assorted National relievers limited the Mets to four runs in 26 innings. Their counterparts in Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego were similarly effective. The Mets have scored 49 runs in their past 18 games. Even with the Greatest Rotation Ever pitching up to its advance notices, that’s a lot of non-support to overcome.

And the Greatest Rotation Ever hasn’t pitching up to its advance notices.

So little is clicking these days. Yoenis Cespedes [11] is hitting the ball exceedingly hard. Everybody else is flying or striking out at alarming rates. When the prime highlight of two nights against your archrival is your bullpen keeping a 9-1 deficit 9-1, perhaps you’re mostly battling yourself — and losing.

Bring on the Brewers. Bring on the next 122 games. There’s three quarters of a season remaining and the Mets are still very much contenders. It only feels like the end is nigh.