The right-hander realized that if he didn’t regain in 2018 some of the form he displayed while briefly becoming the Mets’ staff ace three years ago, his 2019 season was in doubt following several seasons filled with injuries and subpar performances.
Now, four months after that trade, Harvey is erasing with every start many of the doubts about whether he’s still a reliable major league starter. His next start comes Saturday as the Reds and San Diego Padres play the third game of a four-game series matching last-place teams at Great American Ball Park.
Harvey, who’s been reliable and fairly consistent, opposes Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin (3-5), whose 33 career starts are far fewer than Harvey’s 124. Erlin lost his last two decisions, to the Rockies and Dodgers, by giving up eight runs in 10 innings.
On Friday, Phillip Ervin went 3-for-3 with a pair of homers, driving in four runs and scoring four and Scott Schebler hit a grand slam as Reds stopped a four-game losing streak and evened the series at a game apiece by winning 12-6.
It was a long night for the Padres in a lot of ways — not only did they fall behind 12-4, but they waited out a pregame rain delay of 2 hours, 37 minutes merely to play. But a short night for starting pitcher Brett Kennedy, who gave up only one hit but walked four and allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings.
“It was pretty evident early that his velo (velocity) wasn’t where it had been before,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “His command wasn’t there. It wasn’t like they were close misses, they were fairly significant. From a baseball perspective, we felt it prudent to go to the bullpen as quickly as possible and give ourselves the best chance to win that baseball game.”
Now they’ll go against Harvey, who was effectively jettisoned by the Mets after going 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in eight games, including four starts, but looks to be rejuvenating his career.
He’s 6-6 with a 4.43 ERA for the Reds despite pitching in a homer-friendly ballpark for a last-place team. And his 132 2/3 innings are the most he’s pitched in a season since he threw 189 1/3 innings while going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA for the Mets in 2015.
“Obviously, the way this season started (with the Mets casting him off to the Reds), getting to 130-plus innings … I bet you there’s a lot of people that didn’t think that was possible,” Harvey told reporters following his most recent start Monday in Pittsburgh. “I think there’s still a lot of work to be done for this season — four or five more starts, whatever it is. Just got to go out and try to get better each time.
“Kind of flush an interesting (2018) season, and get ready for the offseason.”
And for next season, wherever that may be. Harvey turns 30 in March and, as a free agent, he’s not quite sure yet whose uniform he will wear in 2019. The Reds would like it to be theirs, and ownership reportedly is very interested in bringing him back if financial terms can be worked out.
But, as he said, there’s still work to be done beginning with Saturday.
This will be Harvey’s fourth appearance against the Padres this season but only his second start; he pitched an inning apiece as a reliever in two April games while with the Mets. With the Reds, he took the loss in an 8-2 Padres victory at Petco Park on June 2, yielding six hits and four earned runs in five innings. He’s 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in eight career games against them.
Harvey was coming off three consecutive effective starts — three runs allowed in 18 2/3 innings — before giving up five runs in four innings of what turned out to be a 13-12 Reds loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 29.
He followed that up by giving up three runs and seven hits in six innings Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who began a three-game sweep of the Reds by winning 5-1. Harvey yielded a pair of homers, to Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco.
“It’s about two pitches,” Harvey said. “You throw a bad change-up and he (Frazier) hits it out. You throw a good pitch and it finds a hole, like they did most of the game. Then you throw a fastball right down the middle to a power hitter (Polanco) and you give up two more runs.”
Now, for Harvey, it’s about September, for sure, but also all about 2019.