By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ There is an old race track saying.
It fits at Woodbine, Belmont or even old Frontenac Downs.
You never ever change your mind in the betting line.
It also fits for the Citi Field dugout.
New York Mets manager Terry Collins made up his mind.
Matt Harvey had put up eight zeros, thrown 102 pitches and Collins had made up his mind:
Time to go from the tiring stud to the fresh horse.
Harvey was done. Collins told pitching coach Dan Warthen to tell him so.
Harvey got off the bench, walked the length of the dugout where Collins was and argued to stay in the game.
“I want this game, I want it bad. You’ve got to leave me in,” Harvey pleaded to Collins.
The Mets manager answered “You’ve got us exactly where we wanted to get.”
Harvey said: “I want this game in the worst way.”
While the dugout scene was playing out the sold-out crowd was chanting Harvey’s name.
“I try not to let the crowd influence me, I looked in the kid’s eyes,” Collins said. His eyes saw a gassed ace. His heart felt he was talking to someone ready to go nine.
There was a delay before the start of the ninth -- as if Harvey was waiting off stage, stage right -- before racing out of the dugout, hoping over the first-base foul line while needing only three outs to complete the shut out, shifting the Series to Kansas City.
Now in the movies featuring the New York Gothams or the hero who knocked out a bank of lights in the upper deck before walking into a corn field, everything would have worked out for Harvey.
Instead it ended in the worst possible way: a seven-pitch, lead-off walk to Lorenzo Cain and a run-scoring double by Eric Hosmer. Two ground balls off closer Jeurys Familia, the lead was gone and the Kansas City Royals won Game 5 and eventually World Series in 12 innings.
“I let my heart get in the way of my gut,” Collins said. “I love my players. I trust them. So I said, ‘Go get ‘em.’ And he went out and the lead-off walk started it.”
Why not hook Harvey then?
“If you’re going to let him face one guy, you shouldn’t have sent him out there,” Collins said. “After the double, that’s when I said, I’ve got to see if we can get out of this with only one run. It didn’t work. It was my fault.”
Harvey stood at his locker and took questions from wave after wave of boom mikes, reporters, other seam heads.
“I wanted it bad,” Harvey said. “The way the game was going, the last thing I wanted was not finish what I started. I poured my heart out and I gave everything I had. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite good enough.”
This was not the routine, run-of-the-mill “let me stay in” discussion.
The Mets had a two-run lead. Three outs and they extended the Series to Game 6 in Kansas City.
Harvey had argued with management over the six-man rotation, his agent Scott Boras let the Mets know he had a hard innings count (180), there were pitch counts, skipped starts and a perception that Harvey did not want the ball.
The Mets had wanted him to pitch, to step forward all season.
Now, he wanted the ball.
He had logged 216 innings counting the post-season.
His attempt to get to 217 fell short.
“He’d been through a tough summer, beaten down,” said Collins. “I trusted him. I said, ‘You got it. You’ve earned this. So go get ‘em.’ It’s my fault, not his. That’s who he is.
“Sometimes you let your heart dictate your mind. We got in the spot where we wanted, we talked about it for two days. This was my fault.
“We said going in if Matt gave us seven, Jeurys would pitch two. I’ve got one of the best closers in the game. I got him in the game, but it was a little late. And that’s inexcusable, for me.”
Collins is a lot like Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. He wants all the blame and none of the credit.
Watching the dugout scene on TV brought back memories.
Collins told Harvey he was done, Harvey argued and out he came with a lead in Game 5.
In the 1991 World Series, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly wanted to take starter Jack Morris out after nine in Game 7.
The difference was Morris’ Twins and the Braves were deadlocked 0-0. Morris pitched a scoreless 10th and Minnesota won.
“I won’t be sleeping much the next couple of days, I’ll tell you that,” Collins said.
Monday, April 4 _ Blue Jays (RHP Marcus Stroman) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Chris Archer), at Tropicana Field,