Matt Harvey has dealt with fatigue, some nagging issues and quite a few tough outings in the first half of the season. However, after the All-Star break, the Orioles’ right-hander was hoping for a fresh start.
After tossing six scoreless innings and leading Baltimore to a 5-0 win in Sunday’s matinee rubber match at Kauffman Stadium, both Harvey and manager Brandon Hyde feel like this was a good beginning to the second half.
“[Starting catcher Austin Wynns] said we’re going to six today,” Harvey said. “I guess he had a good feeling … I came in today and I put in my mind that I was starting over. Really trying to go out there and flip the switch on such a poor first half. Having those four days off to just recharge and see the family, and spend some really quality time with loved ones, it definitely helps. Definitely get your mind back into a better place where it’s easy to flip the switch.”
With their third shutout of the season, the O’s earned their first series win since sweeping the Astros (June 28-30 at Minute Maid Park). Harvey picked up his first victory since May 1, snapping a 12-start winless skid.
“I thought extended rest definitely played a part,” Hyde said of his starter’s success. “For him to get a breather, he was really good today. That was awesome. Been a while since we’ve had a six-inning start. He left it all out there in the sixth inning, pretty much emptied it there. So, I’m really, really happy with how we pitched today.”
Harvey needed just 74 pitches to get through six frames, holding the Royals to just three hits, and working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by inducing an inning-ending forceout after a hit batter, walk and single had Kansas City set up for a potential big inning.
The O’s offense kept rolling behind Harvey as Ramón Urías, who had two RBIs in Saturday’s 8-4 win, opened the scoring with a two-run single in the third inning for the first back-to-back multi-RBI games of his career.
“I’m glad we were able to get them a little bit of run support early,” said Austin Hays, who recorded two hits. “I know that makes it a lot easier on your starting pitcher. And then that bases-loaded jam that he was able to get out of was great to see. This was a great start for him. I’m glad we were able to put some offense up behind him.”
Hyde describes Harvey as a very competitive guy, with an old-school mindset. Harvey wants to do all that he can for his team, delivering winning performances. The skipper has so much respect for the veteran pitcher, noting that everyone wants to see him do well.
“There was a hug in the dugout,” Hyde joked. “He wants to go deep in the game. He wants to get back to the form that he was in 2012 to ‘15. He works extremely hard at it and he’s disappointed with not going deeper in the games. But for him to get an extended period of rest, and to go out and really keep his pitch count down. For me, that’s the huge thing with our starters.”
Heading into the second half, Harvey had struggled as he entered the series finale with a 7.70 ERA. Facing his former team — making seven appearances for the Royals in 2020 — he became the first Orioles pitcher to complete six innings in 18 games.
Hyde wasn’t expecting his starter to go so deep into the game, knowing that Harvey didn’t get to pitch a lot during the 2020 season and is still ramping up. However, when Harvey is executing all five of his pitches and keeps his pitch count low, it makes sense to send him out during the middle innings.
Hyde saw in-game adjustments from the veteran, including bringing up his arm speed during the fifth inning. That kind of awareness is exactly what Hyde is hoping to see during the second half. Potentially, a step towards Harvey returning to a version of his former All-Star self. However, a win will do for now.