By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Matt Harvey pitched Saturday night as if the Great American Ball Park pitching mound was an audition stage.
And it most likely was.
Nearly a dozen scouts sat behind home plate clocking and charting Harvey’s pitches so they could send reports on whether their team should try to trade for him.
For four innings they all marked the ‘yes’ box with two or three exclamation points. Harvey retired the first nine Philadelphia Phillies he faced, three straight 1-2-3 innings, four of the first six via strikeouts.
It was a launching point for the Reds to score a second straight win over the National League East’s first place team, this time by 6-2.
What the scouts saw was Harvey’s heater zooming past the Philadelphia hitters at 98 miles an hour. And as catcher Tucker Barnhart said, “He only made one bad pitch all night.”
There was a brief pause by Harvey in the fourth inning when he put the first three runners on base and gave up two runs. He walked Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins ended the no-hitter and the shutout with a two-run home run. That was the one bad pitch to which Barnhart referred. Harvey walked Odubel Herrera, then retired three in a row.
He retired six of the final seven he faced before leaving for a pinch-hitter after five innings. He gave up only the two runs, two hits, walked two and struck out two.
And most of the scouts marked the ‘yes’ box on their charts.
So now Harvey sits and waits as Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, creeps closer, wondering what uniform color he will be wearing for his next start. And it could still be red if nobody knocks hard enough on the door to acquire him.
Barnhart knows where he stands on the issue.
“I hope like hell that isn’t the last time I catch him,” he said. And hearing that, Harvey said, “I love throwing to Tucker. It has been awesome. I don’t want to go anywhere, but that isn’t my decision. I’m happy to be here, love to be here. Love throwing to Tucker. I love playing with these guys. Unfortunately it is out of my control.”
Of reaching 98 miles an hour, Harvey said two years ago, after his surgery, he never felt that level was reachable.
“There were times I didn’t think that was possible, but the progression over the last two years to get to a point where I can now, well, it is all about maintaining it,” he said. “I’m two years out now and I’m getting everything back. I can feel it coming out of my hand pretty good when you get the velo that high and you get swings and misses. It brings me back to my old days.”
And Harvey agrees the pitch to Hoskins was his one and only miscue of the 92 pitches he threw. “Yeah,” he said. “I was trying to go away and I felt myself fly open. You let go and hope he fouls it off. But he is hitting the ball pretty well. It is one I wish I could take back or change pitches.”
The Reds bullpen parade of Wandy Peralta, Sal Romano, Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes put the Phillies phire out the rest of the way with four scoreless innings and only two hits.
Meanwhile, the Reds took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Mason Williams singled, Tucker Barnhart doubled and Adam Duvall singled. Despite those three hits to start the inning the Reds scored only one run because Harvey popped up a bunt, Barnhart was thrown out at home plate trying to score from third on a ground ball to second and Jose Peraza grounded to second.
Peraza had opened the bottom of the first with a double off Phillies starter Vince Velasquez, but stayed anchored as the next three Reds made outs.
Philadelphia took the lead, 2-1, in the fourth on the two-run Hoskins home run and the Reds tied it, 2-2, in the fourth on Duvall’s walk, Harvey’s sacrifice bunt and Billy Hamilton’s single.
The Reds filled the bases with one out in the fifth and Philadelphia manager Gabe Kapler permitted Velasquez to continue. He was rewarded when Velasquez struck out Adam Duvall and pinch-hitter Dilson Herrera, leaving matters at 2-2.
Tommy Hunter took the mound for the Phillies in the sixth and the Reds scored twice to take a 4-2 lead. It began when Billy Hamilton tried to check his swing and pushed one down the third base line off Maikel Franco’s glove and Hamilton legged it into a double.
Peraza bunted Hamilton to third, Scooter Gennett was hit by a pitch and Joey Votto, who insists he is serious when he said he wants to drive a yellow school bus when he retires, drove a blue-dart run-scoring single to right. The second run scored while Eugenio Suarez bounced into a fielder’s choice force at second base.
The Reds snuffed Philadelphia rallies in the seventh and eighth with a pair of double plays, both times with a new pitcher on the mound.
With one out in the seventh and a runner on first, Sal Romano came in and coaxed an inning-ending double play out of Maikel Franco. With one out in the eighth and two on, Jared Hughes came in and got an inning-ending double plays started by shortstop Jose Peraza on a back-handed stop to his right.
The Reds put it away in the bottom of the eighth with two runs that featured a second double in the game by Peraza, a run-scoring double by Scooter Gennett and a run-scoring single by Joey Votto, his third hit on the night they gave away the Joey Votto Funko Pop.
A large gathering of 35,249 turned out to collect their free Votto Funko Pops, to see Walk the Moon in a post-game concert and to perhaps see Harvey’s last turn on the mound in a Reds uniform.
If they came to see Eugenio Suarez hit a home run in his sixth straight game, they went home disappointed. He hit a deep fly ball his first time up, but was 0 for 4 with a walk and wore a horse collar home.