By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The conundrum that is Matt Harvey continues to dangle over the collective heads of the Cincinnati Reds front office.
What to do, what not to do?
With a gaggle of Major League scouts sprinkled in the seats behind home plate Saturday night, Harvey put on a pitching demonstration against the San Francisco Giants that had to make contending teams salivate as they look for pitching help.
Harvey owned a no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning before Joe Panik barely beat an infield hit to deep short and Buster Posey followed with a solid single to right.
“It reminded me of a start in 2013 that I had against the White Sox,” said Harvey. “Same kind of thing — later in the game, in the eighth with a no-hitter. Same kind of play. Shortstop in the hole, infield hit.”
When he gave up two more singles in the seventh with one out, Cody Reed replaced him and retired two pinch-hitters with no damage. Harvey pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up no runs, four hits, one walk and struck out five.
Harvey carried the night as the Reds recorded a 7-1 victory, their second straight over the Giants, putting a solid crimp in San Francisco’s playoff blueprints.
If the Reds desire to trade Harvey, they need to do so before September 1 so that he would be eligible to pitch in the post-season for whatever team acquired him. And the Reds would get something for him, whatever that might be.
If they keep him for the rest of the season, Harvey becomes a free agent and his agent, Scott Boras, said they plan to see what the market might bring. And the Reds would get nothing in return.
Reds manager Jim Riggleman certainly would like to continue sending him to the mound.
“I like his physical ability and I really like his professionalism,” said Riggleman. “I love the respect he has for his coaches and teammates. I’ve taken him out of a couple of games like tonight and I’ve had some pitchers make a fuss about it. He just hands me the ball and he knows the right thing to do — come in and see me tomorrow if he has any questions.
“He hung a couple of sliders in the fifth and got away with it,” said Riggleman. “We got him out of there at the right time, but most pitchers don’t think that way. They believe they should stay in the game until it’s tied.”
Harvey, of course, carried heavy baggage when he came to Cincinnati and he stuck it in some closet and has been a model citizen.
“I like his manner, his work has been outstanding, his preparation is great, everything,” said Riggleman. “He is enjoying Cincinnati, plays a lot of golf and there are no issues. Nothing. He has been a pleasure.”
And Harvey acts as if he is having the time of his life and keeps getting better on the mound, even though he doesn’t favor the six-man rotation that has been pitching every Saturday.
“The guys are kidding me, calling me Mr. Saturday like a college pitcher who pitches every Saturday,” he said. “After my successful last outing, you want to get in a groove and keep things going that way, not be so up-and-down, up-and-down. Another solid start is big.
Asked if it is fun to pitch again with perfect health and no residual effects of fighting injuries for the last three years, Harvey smiled and said, “It’s getting there, it’s getting there. It has been some ups and downs, but health is the biggest thing and getting used to throwing while healthy has been different.”
Harvey’s opponent was one with a great reputation, left hander Madison Bumgarner. And he lived up to his past history for three innings — no runs, one hit.
Then the Reds took him apart, scoring three in the fourth, two in the fifth and one in the sixth, banging five extra base hits that included home runs by Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera, plus a two-run double by Brandon Dixon on a shattered bat that is now a box of toothpicks.
San Francisco avoided a shutout in the eighth, loading the bases with no outs against Reed, Michael Lorenzen came in to make sure matters didn’t escalate, giving up only a run on a fielder’s choice.