It would be a stretch to say the Marlins own Matt Harvey. But he certainly doesn’t own them.
They proved it once again Thursday by defeating the staff ace of the New York Mets and the starting pitcher for the National League in last month’s All-Star Game.
The Marlins worked Harvey to the point of fatigue before delivering the knockout punch in the sixth inning in a 3-0 victory to salvage a split of their four-game series with the Mets.
Logan Morrison broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with a two-out RBI single off Harvey before Donovan Solano fouled off six Harvey offerings in a nine-pitch at bat that culminated in a two-run, backbreaking single that brought about his exit.
Harvey has failed to win once in four starts this season against the Marlins.
He’s lasted six innings or longer in 19 of his 22 starts. The three in which he was unable to hang on that long: all against the Marlins, the lowest-scoring team in the majors.
“They put the ball in play and hit the ball to all fields,” explained Mets manager Terry Collins of the Marlins’ success against Harvey. “So they’re a little tougher on him.”
Not that Harvey struggled. Far from it. He cruised through the first five innings, holding the Marlins to just one harmless hit – a third-inning single by Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler.
But, even though base runners were scarce for the Marlins, they ran up Harvey’s pitch count by working him deep into counts and forcing him to expend energy that would finally abandon him in the six.
After Juan Pierre and Christian Yelich opened the sixth with back-to-back singles, Harvey almost pitched his way out of the jam, retiring each of the next two Marlins hitters. Morrison, though, didn’t let him off the hook, sending a 2-2 pitch into right to drive in the go-ahead run.
“He threw me a first-pitch change-up that I looked pretty dumb on,” Morrison said. “I figured he was going to go back to that at some point. Then he came in-in and missed both times. So I figured I was going to see a change-up and I did. I was able to stay on it, and it got through a hole.”
Harvey then hit Ed Lucas with a pitch to load the bases for Solano.
Solano battled through an at bat so long that Harvey had to take a step back off the mound to gather his breath. But on Harvey’s 110th pitch, Solano stroked a two-run single to right-center, and that was it for the Mets pitcher.
“I couldn’t make a pitch to get him out,” Harvey said. “When I went in, it wasn’t in enough, or down. And then I threw him a slider and it was up, so he shot it to right field.”
Said Solano: “I feel like he was tired a little bit. That slider was maybe a little bit up. Early in the game, he throws that slider and it’s down.”
The result was another win over the Mets. The Marlins are now 10-5 against the Mets this season and locked up the season series with their division rivals.
Koehler seemed always to be on the ropes, but managed to keep the Mets off the board for six innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
“From the first inning on, none of those zeroes came easy,” Koehler said.
Koehler also received strong fielding support, with the biggest defensive play coming in the fifth when, with runners at first and second and one out, rookie center fielder Jake Marisnick made a layout catch on Marlon Byrd’s line shot. Marisnick sprang to his feet and fired in to Solano, who fired the relay to first to double up David Wright and end the inning.
“The play Jake made in center field is a game changer,” Koehler said. “That ball falls and gets by him, you’re talking two runs there and another guy in scoring position.”
Said Marisnick: “I was able to get a good jump on it, and I saw it all the way into my glove.”
Since June 1, the Marlins are 28-24: best record in the N.L. East. And they have yet to allow Harvey to beat them at any point this season.
“I don’t know that I can explain it,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “For whatever reason, we really lock it in against him, and we’re really able to rise to the occasion, grind out a ton of at bats and make him throw a lot of pitches.”