SAN FRANCISCO -- His debut come and gone, Matt Harvey on Tuesday began the endless string of tweaks and adjustments that will come to shape his success in the Majors. Leaning on his changeup far more often than in the first start of his career, Harvey flashed a deeper repertoire in a 4-1 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. Perhaps he even grew a little.
But the biggest difference in his second start was the result.
"I don't like to lose," Harvey said. "Whether I'm pitching or whether I'm not, I don't like to lose. It's how I am. In my world, I would have thrown up more zeroes and kept us closer."
Even if those crooked numbers were not entirely his fault. After putting the first three men he faced in the second inning on base, Harvey cut down the lead runner on a comebacker to the mound. Then he made the pitch he needed to escape the inning, coaxing another ground ball out of Brandon Crawford.
But with Justin Christian bearing down on him at second base, shortstop Ruben Tejada took Daniel Murphy's feed and threw it well wide of first, spoiling a double-play opportunity and allowing two runs to score.
"He should have wiggled out of [it]," manager Terry Collins said of the jam.
Four innings later, Harvey again loaded the bases with no outs and again induced a double-play ball -- this one successful -- to limit the damage to one run. He wiggled. And so five days after his scoreless debut in Phoenix, Harvey held the Giants to three runs over six innings, striking out seven. His 18 total strikeouts are the most of any Mets pitcher in history over the first two games of his career.
"This guy's big and strong," Collins said. "I just like the way he works. I just like his composure on the mound. It doesn't seem like he gets very rattled when he's out there. He knows what he has to do. He tries to make pitches, doesn't give in. I tell you, I've been pretty impressed. I thought for sure you'd see a good arm coming up here, but he knows what he's doing out there."
The Mets had a prime opportunity to take Harvey off the hook for his first loss in the seventh, loading the bases against Giants starter Tim Lincecum with one out. But Josh Thole hit a sharp line drive right at the second baseman and David Wright, who was not in the starting lineup, struck out looking as a pinch-hitter.
In one of his best starts of an otherwise shaky season, Lincecum gave up his only run on Justin Turner's RBI double in the second inning. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner struck out seven, walked one and allowed six hits.
In short, he delivered the type of performance that Harvey envisioned.
Throwing no more than a half-dozen changeups in his successful debut, Harvey surpassed that total in the first two innings Tuesday. He leaned on that pitch nearly four times as often as he did in Arizona, throwing his mid-90s fastball barely more than 50 percent of the time.
It was in part a conscious effort, the product of pitching coach Dan Warthen's coaching. And it was in part a result of the strong feel that Harvey had for his changeup, which he considers his second-best offering.
"The guy's got live stuff and good secondary pitches," Lincecum said. "That fastball's really sneaky."
It was hardly a usual sight from a rookie. Coming off a start in which he leaned heavily on his mid-90s fastball to strike out 11 batters over 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the D-backs, Harvey proceeded with an entirely different plan against the Giants. He did not wait for the league to adjust to him before he began adjusting back. And in some ways, he pitched better on Tuesday than he did in his debut.
He was more efficient. He battled through more adversity. He showed the Mets a characteristic or two that he did not in the desert, giving them reason to believe he can continue to improve.
"It was a very well-pitched game by him," Thole said. "Seeing what he did the other day in Arizona, you're excited. And what he was doing in Arizona, he was doing here."