Very little about the Mets’ 5-2 victory over the Reds Wednesday night was aesthetically pleasing. But even five total errors by the two teams couldn’t fully obscure some rays of light for the Mets.
Neil Walker extended his strong start by slamming his ninth home run of the season, tying him with the Nationals’ Bryce Harper for the most in baseball. Michael Conforto laced a two-run double to give the Mets a three-run lead in the sixth, further reinforcing the ease with which he has established himself as a middle-of-the-order bat.
Perhaps most notable of all, Matt Harvey delivered his best outing of the season, offering the strongest signs yet that he may be regaining his form after a rough start.
The righthander held the dreadful Reds to two runs and seven hits, walking one, while finishing with a season-high seven strikeouts. For only the second time in his five starts, he finished six innings.
Said Harvey: “We’re moving in the right direction.”
As are the Mets, who have quickly put their own slow start in the rearview mirror. They have won six in a row and 11 of their last 13.
In the process, they have displayed a trait of all teams serious about contending: fattening up on inferior foes. They followed a sweep of the Braves with one against the Reds.
“Two sweeps in a row, we’re doing pretty well,” said Walker, who enjoyed another big night.
In the first, Walker’s RBI single gave the Mets the second of two unearned runs, which they used to overcome a 1-0 deficit. In the third, Walker’s solo blast made it 3-1. It was his ninth April homer, tying him with Dave Kingman, Carlos Delgado and John Buck for the franchise record.
In the sixth, after the Reds had cut the deficit to one run, Conforto laced a two-run double to put the Mets in the driver’s seat. Addison Reed worked the ninth for his first save in place of Jeurys Familia, who got the night off.
The Mets won their 11th straight game against the Reds, dating to Sept. 7, 2014, the second-longest winning streak against any one team in franchise history.
Of course, the streak would be dead had Harvey failed to bounce back from a tough beginning.
In the first, Zack Cozart drilled Harvey’s hanging slider over the leftfield fence for a leadoff home run. Ivan De Jesus Jr. followed with another wake-up call, sending a rocket through the box that clipped Harvey right in the small of his back.
But beginning with Joey Votto in the first, Harvey struck out the next five batters he faced, equaling his season high for a start by the time he walked off the mound in the second. Harvey spent the rest of his evening inducing weak contact and easing his way out of trouble.
“This is the best I think he’s thrown all year,” manager Terry Collins said.
Harvey’s first four starts invited plenty of questions about whether last season’s workload — a career-high 216 innings — had taken a toll. The pitcher insisted that his woes stemmed from faulty mechanics.
Whatever the explanation, it was clear that Harvey appeared much improved. His fastball possessed its customary velocity and his slider showed its familiar bite. His 102nd and final pitch of the night was a 97 mph fastball that froze pinch hitter Jordan Pacheco.
Harvey (2-3) lowered his ERA from 5.24 to 4.76 through five starts, though better luck and defense might have allowed him to shave even more.
“That was a huge step for me,” Harvey said. “I’m definitely happy with the results.”