NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey’s too valiant and too tough, as it turns out. On a night Harvey dominated the Royals and raised the specter of the Dark Knight again, he made only one mistake: he talked Terry Collins into keeping him in the game.
Harvey, after logging eight beautiful, scoreless innings insisted on staying for a ninth, and that was one inning too many. FOX cameras caught pitching coach Dan Warthen going over to Harvey in the dugout during the bottom of the eighth and Harvey responding to what seemed like a suggestion to call it a night by mouthing, "No way!" Then he bee-lined over to Collins to plead and win his case to stay in.
"I told him ... that was enough. And he came over and said, "I want this game. I want it bad. You've got to leave me in,'" Collins said afterward. "He said, 'I want this game in the worst way.' So obviously, I let my heart get in the way of my gut."
Turns out, Collins should have stuck with his gut. And he knew it. Harvey, who entered the ninth inning with 101 pitches, walked Lorenzo Cain and allowed a double to Eric Hosmer. It was only at that point that Harvey was removed for closer Jeurys Familia, but it was too late. The Royals had a run in, and a runner on second, and they weren't about to be denied the tie.
"I wanted the ball," Harvey said afterward. "I told Terry and Dan I wanted the ball."
"When you look in this kid's eyes, when he came off that inning, and I mean he's been through a tough summer. He's been beaten down, and I just trusted him. I said, 'You got it. You've earned this so go get 'em,'" Collins related. "So it's my fault. It's not his. That's who he is."
As it turned out, Hosmer went to third on a groundout to first by Mike Moustakas, then scored on a grounder to third baseman David Wright when he outraced first baseman Lucas Duda’s wide and slow throw home. Hosmer made the play of the game, and Collins looked like he was going to be ill in the dugout.
Collins pointed out that Harvey was still throwing hard. Yet, he still faulted himself, several times. Collins is nothing if not a stand-up guy.
"This was my fault," Collins repeated. "Sometimes you let your heart dictate your mind ... I won't be sleeping much the next couple nights, I'll tell you that."
Collins said he loves and trusts his players. But in this case, he trusted Harvey too much, as it turned out. Even though Harvey had allowed only three hits to that point, he went an inning beyond the plan. And they had a great closer waiting.
The plan at the start was seven innings for Harvey, then Familia for two, as Collins explained later. Well, Harvey had already gone eight. And that was probably enough, as Collins well knew.
Harvey heard criticism throughout September for thinking about his innings total. And for that reason, maybe he had even more incentive to keep going.
"Just bring in Familia to start the ninth and the game is over," said one second-guessing NL scout. "Harvey’s not going to finish the game anyway with that pitch count. Just let Familia have a fresh inning for once and the game is over."
Collins is The Sporting News Manager of the Year, and he may be NL Manager of the Year, too, but he struggled to find the right game-closing formula in this World Series, which ended with a 7-2 win by the Royals. Familia was called in to finish out a 9-3 victory in Game 3, then wasn’t called in to save a 3-2 lead in Game 4 to start the eighth inning.
This time, Harvey’s magic arm and powers of persuasion caused Collins to stick with his starter two batters too long. Collins, with good humor, mentioned that even his wife questioned him about why he didn’t use Familia for two innings in Game 4. He also revealed she was at the taco stand at the time of the decision. But she wasn’t alone.
"Collins has had terrible game management of late," said the NL scout. "He never should have pitched him (Familia) in a blowout win and then could have used him for two innings last night, one inning tonight, and the Mets are going to KC up 3-2."
Collins had a terrific year. But, as he admitted, he needed to stick with his gut there. He can't be influenced by a kid who's never going to want to come out.