ST. LOUIS — Zack Wheeler’s short, lethargic performance gave the Mets ample opportunity to test the newest member of the bullpen Tuesday night.
Matt Harvey entered from behind the left-field fence in the fifth inning and was given the task of maintaining a tie game.
The beleaguered right-hander flunked his first test, allowing the go-ahead run, but was let off the hook by the Mets lineup.
Jay Bruce delivered the dagger with a two-out homer in the 10th inning that sent the Mets to a 6-5 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The previously slumping Bruce finished with three hits, including a single in the eighth that helped the Mets tie the game. In the 10th, Bruce cleared the center-field fence against Matt Bowman for the lead.
Harvey, available for the first time from the bullpen since learning on Saturday that he had been removed from the rotation, allowed one run on two hits and one walk over two innings.
The Mets tied it 5-5 in the eighth on Adrian Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly, after Bruce had singled Todd Frazier to third. Bruce’s hit was only the Mets’ fourth of the night at that point.
Harvey entered a tie game in the fifth and got two fast outs before Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong delivered consecutive doubles to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
Fixing Harvey is important to the Mets, but it hardly ranks as the team’s primary goal.
So Harvey, in his new role as reliever, will be treated like any other member of the bullpen. In other words, the Mets will not create situations for Harvey to pitch just for the sake of getting him into a game. Likewise, there is no situation from which Harvey will be exempt, if the game dictates.
“This isn’t about one person, it’s about 25 guys and the whole organization, so we’re going to do what we need to win games,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said before the game. “This isn’t extended spring training where we are going to pick and choose our spots to develop a guy. We are not trying to develop anything here, we are trying to win games.”
And the Mets were confident Harvey’s anger over losing his starting job had subsided enough that he was ready to embrace his new role. In four starts, Harvey was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations, just he and I about the whole thing and he’s taking it like a man,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He wasn’t excited about it, but he’s going to go out there and do the job. When the time comes and we call his name, he’s going to go out there and get the job done.”
Callaway noted that the starting pitchers he mentored with the Indians who were sent to the bullpen — Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — initially resisted the move, as did Harvey.
“Nobody wants to come out of the starting rotation,” Callaway said. “It’s a tough message. It’s a tough thing to accept as a player, but he accepted it and he’s going to get the job done.”
Yoenis Cespedes’ three-run rocket in the fifth tied it 4-4 and was the beginning of the end for Luke Weaver. The homer measured 463 feet and was the third-longest by an opposing player in this ballpark’s history.
Wheeler struggled to complete four innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in the worst of his three starts this season. The right-hander allowed a two-run homer to Tommy Pham in the first that put the Mets in a 2-0 hole. In the fourth he plunked DeJong and surrendered an RBI double to Kolten Wong before Weaver contributed a run-scoring single.
Bruce’s RBI triple in the second had pulled the Mets within 2-1. Bruce was generously awarded a triple after Marcell Ozuna went for the catch in left field and watched the ball bounce behind him, allowing Frazier to score.
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