NEW YORK -- Terry Collins insisted Wednesday that Matt Harvey has nothing left to prove to the Mets.
Perhaps the Mets have something to prove to him.
Harvey was his usual successful self in his penultimate start of the season, striking out 10 over five-plus innings of one-run ball. But the Mets continued their string of offensive ineptitude at Citi Field, scoring three or fewer runs for the franchise-record 13th consecutive home game in a 2-0 loss to the Nationals.
"Nobody likes to lose," Harvey said. "Nobody likes to be walking off the field with an 'L.' Every guy in here is working their butt off to do everything we can to win, and it's just not going our way right now."
Making his second-to-last start before the Mets shut him down on an innings limit, Harvey struck out the first four batters he faced and six of the first nine. The only run off him came on Ryan Zimmerman's homer to lead off the fourth, but that was enough to put Harvey on the hook for a loss.
The damage against Harvey might have been greater had lefty Robert Carson not wriggled out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth inning without allowing a run. After Harvey gave up a hit and two walks to open the inning, Carson came on and induced two popups and a flyout to maintain the one-run game.
"Harvey threw a great game, and I didn't want to be the one to come in and give up those runs," said Carson, who is auditioning for a lefty specialist role in the bullpen next season. "I'm happy with myself just to get those outs and keep the team close in the game."
But it ultimately did not matter, as the Mets could not score against Washington starter John Lannan nor a stout Nationals bullpen. Instead, it was the Nats who tacked on a critical late run, with Ian Desmond homering off Jon Rauch to open the eighth. Lannan lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and walking one in his first start in place of ace Stephen Strasburg.
The loss gave the Nationals a series sweep at Citi Field, sending the Mets back on the road following an 0-6 homestand. This week marked just the ninth time in franchise history the Mets have gone winless on a homestand lasting six games or longer.
"The frustrations have got to stop," Collins said. "We can sit, go back tonight and think about tonight's game and have a Coke and have a bite to eat and talk about it, but tomorrow we've got to get ready for Milwaukee. They're back in the race now, and we've got to get ready to go play them."
Before Wednesday's game, the Mets manager discussed how much Harvey has already proven in less than two months in the big leagues, especially the rookie's ability to adjust. Now, with one start remaining before the Mets shut him down on an innings limit, Harvey's ERA stands at 2.92. He may have come to the Mets with questions regarding his ultimate ceiling as a pitcher, but Harvey already seems to have answered every one of them.
"I don't think there's any more that I need to see," Collins said. "There's always room for improvement, as we know ... but he has shown us so much."
Even if some scouts still disagree, the Mets believe that Harvey can be an ace. To do so will mean consistently lasting deeper into games, perhaps pitching to contact a bit more while relying less on Carson and his bullpen buddies. But Harvey has shown such an ability to improve and adjust that the Mets have few doubts he can do it.
Even Triple-A Buffalo manager Wally Backman, who recently joined the Mets as an honorary member of the September coaching staff, turned to Collins at one point Wednesday to say he had never been so impressed with Harvey. That's high praise from someone who has watched Harvey pitch more often than anyone in the organization.
"It tells you how this guy can raise his game," Collins said. "He's been so impressive. We've got something special."