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Matt Harvey lit up again in Mets loss, 8-5 to Giants

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Matt Harvey, where have you gone?

Less than a month ago, after going without him for all of 2014 after his Tommy John surgery, the Mets thought they had their ace back. Harvey made eight starts — seven solid or exceptional — and had a 5-1 record with a 1.98 ERA. But in the four starts since, there’s been a marked downturn.

The Harvey that stood on the mound for six innings on Wednesday night was almost unrecognizable. For the second time in four outings he allowed a career-worst seven runs. In this one he surrendered a career-worst three home runs. And as the Mets tried to rebound from Tuesday’s no-hitter by Giants rookie Chris Heston, Harvey coughed up a two-run lead and sent the Mets on to an 8-5 defeat to San Francisco before 24,436 at Citi Field.

“I’m just all over the place,” said Harvey, who is 1-3 with a 7.20 ERA and eight homers allowed in his last four starts. “I’m not putting people away when I need to. I’m not keeping them off base when I need to. Obviously, I’m not keeping the ball in the yard when I need to. . . . . I tried to go a certain place and couldn’t do it — the ball was over the middle or high. It was a pretty poor performance trying to keep the lead we had. I’m not doing my job very well.”

The Mets as a whole aren’t. They’ve lost six of their last eight and this one cost them first place in the NL East. With Washington’s extra-inning win over the Yankees in the Bronx, the Mets trail the Nationals by a half-game and are just two games over .500.

Even though Harvey (6-4) was hitting as high as 99 on the radar gun, he allowed nine hits and walked two with just two strikeouts.

“Right now he’s leaving balls in areas where they’re seeing it pretty good,” Terry Collins said. “He’s got (stuff) too good to be hit like he got hit tonight. When you look up and he’s got two strikeouts and he’s throwing as hard as he was throwing? There’s too many balls on the plate.”

Harvey had already allowed a two-run shot to Joe Panik in the first inning when the Giants erased a 4-2 deficit with a five-run sixth. Buster Posey hit Harvey’s 99-mph fastball for a two-run double to right field. Brandon Belt followed with a two-run homer to left field. And three batters later, Justin Maxwell hit a solo blast to left.

Harvey has now allowed a dozen homers in a dozen games this season. Consider that he allowed only a dozen in the 36 starts he made in 2012 and 2013 before the elbow injury that necessitated his surgery.

The Mets cautioned anyone who would listen early on that it would be unrealistic to expect Harvey to return immediately to 2013 form. And maybe this start and the one on May 23, when he allowed seven runs in four innings, are rock bottom. But the number of times opposing batters have taken him deep is surprising.

“Coming back from it and still going out there with his quality stuff and getting hit like this? And the home runs? We just aren’t used to seeing people hit home runs off of him. It’s all new territory,” Collins said. “We’ve got to continue to work at it. He’s got to continue to battle through it.”

“I’m not going to use that as an excuse. It’s just a terrible performance,” Harvey said. “The last couple starts have been extremely bad. I’m not getting it done, not helping the team in any way. Something needs to change. . . . Physically, my arm feels great. My body feels fine. I need to go back to square one and we’re going to start tomorrow.”

The Mets lineup — devastatingly no-hit by Heston the night before — managed five runs on 11 hits. It battled back from a 2-0 first-inning deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the frame on Wilmer Flores’ two-run single. The Mets were up, 3-2, on Eric Campbell’s run-scoring single in the fourth and 4-2 on Lucas Duda’s RBI single in the fifth.

But after the Giants’ big sixth, they only got within 7-5 on Juan Lagares’ RBI triple with two out in the eighth. Campbell left him there when he followed with an inning-ending strikeout. The Giants tacked on an insurance run in the ninth. “Today we got some offense together,” Collins said. “You’d figure with your best pitcher going the outcome is going to be better.”

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