Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia and the Yankees took advantage of Harvey's early exit Sunday night, routing the sloppy Mets 11-2 to tighten the AL East standings just in time for a critical trip to Toronto.
Harvey was pulled after five innings with a 1-0 lead. The Mets are curbing his workload down the stretch even as they try to close out an NL East championship — and attending to both details became awfully difficult Sunday.
"You don't want to know what I was thinking," Collins said. "You might want to know, but I can't tell you."
The defeat reduced the Mets' division lead to six games over Washington with 13 to play.
Harvey's previous turn was skipped after he got tagged by the Nationals on Sept. 8. Pitching for the first time in 12 days, the right-hander yielded only an infield single and struck out seven.
"He was throwing the ball really well. It seemed like he had everything going for him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Six relievers followed Harvey to the mound, and none were particularly effective.
"It was extremely hard to take him out there," Collins said. "Couldn't have set it up any worse than it was."
Once the Mets went to the soft part of their bullpen, the Yankees quickly jumped ahead. Two of the Mets' four errors helped the Yankees score five runs — four unearned — off Hansel Robles (4-3) in the sixth.
"The last thing I ever want to do, especially in a close game like that, is come out," said Harvey, scheduled for two more (probably abbreviated) starts during the regular season. "I'm going to be ready for my next start, whenever it is."
Harvey has thrown 176 2/3 innings in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, and agent Scott Boras has said doctors don't want the 26-year-old ace to surpass 180 — although Harvey says he would be available for the playoffs.
"We'll stay with the plan for right now until we see where we are at the end of the month," Collins said.
"I want you to understand something: This kid is still a tremendous competitor. Tremendous, (regardless) of what he's been told, what he's been told to say, what he's been told to do. He's a tremendous competitor and, moving forward, I want this kid on the pitching staff."
Harvey got a normal reception in his first home start since the ruckus about his innings limit drew an avalanche of criticism early this month. After he was removed, he sat on the bench and lowered his head, nodding during a chat with Collins.
"It's hard for me to get it, because I am, at heart, the old-school guy," Collins said. "But I understand where it's coming from. Therefore, you adjust to it. Because I've said before, there's a lot of things in our game today I don't necessarily agree with. You adjust to it or get out. So I'm adjusting to it. I might get out here pretty soon, but I'm going to adjust to it right now."
Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer after Beltran's go-ahead double against his former team. Sabathia (5-9) won for the first time since July 8 as the Yankees took two of three at Citi Field to win both Subway Series this season.
New York, which leads the AL wild-card chase, moved within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Blue Jays heading into their three-game set beginning Monday night.
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Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes ended an 0-for-19 slump with a fifth-inning double.
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka won't make his scheduled start in Toronto because of a strained right hamstring. Struggling RHP Ivan Nova, recently removed from the rotation, will pitch in Tanaka's place Wednesday night.
Mets: All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom will be pushed back in the rotation this week rather than skipped entirely, Collins said. The club is concerned about deGrom's recent slump in his first full major league season and wants to give him a breather. ... 2B Juan Uribe was removed in the fifth. He bruised his chest when he saved a run with a diving stop in the third. X-rays were negative, the Mets said, but Uribe will have an MRI on Monday. ... Setup man Tyler Clippard was an option for Collins again, though he didn't pitch. Clippard was unavailable the previous two days because his back stiffened up Friday.
Mets: The next 10 games are against Atlanta, Cincinnati and Philadelphia — all currently at least 22 games under .500. LHP Jonathon Niese (8-10, 4.31 ERA) goes Monday night against Braves RHP Shelby Miller (5-15, 3.00), who is 0-14 in 22 starts since his most recent win on May 17.