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NEW YORK -- Of the 18 questions New York Mets manager Terry Collins was asked during his pregame news conference Friday, 15 had to do with struggling right-hander Matt Harvey, the Opening Day starter who still receives ace-like attention despite producing the third-highest ERA in the National League this season.
Then Collins and the rest of the Mets spent the rest of the night watching a reminder there are still at least three pitchers in the rotation who can do what Harvey used to do.
Left-hander Steven Matz allowed three hits over seven strong innings Friday and Michael Conforto laced the go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Mets edged the Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 at Citi Field.
Matz allowed both runs in the first, when Jonathan Villar led off with a single and Chris Carter launched a two-out homer to center. But Matz settled down to retire 18 of the final 19 batters he faced -- including 15 in a row -- and spare a bullpen that had to throw 6 1/3 innings Thursday night, when Harvey gave up nine runs (six earned) in a 9-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
"We needed it bad," Collins said. "We were really short in the pen. We had (Jim) Henderson and (Hansel) Robles and (Jeurys) Familia and (Addison) Reed and that was it. So we needed somebody to give us six innings. He gave us more than that. Tremendous outing."
It was doubly impressive given not only the urgency surrounding the Mets, who won for just the second time in eight games Friday, but also the uncertainty that enveloped Matz the previous 10 days. Matz was skipped in the rotation last week due to a sore forearm, but tests revealed no structural damage.
"With the injuries that I've had in the past, anytime the elbow pops up, you question it," said Matz, who didn't pitch for two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010. "But all the MRIs came back clear and everything (so that gave him) peace of mind."
Matz gave the Mets peace of mind Friday, plus the ability to exhale and laugh a little bit.
"Matter of fact, we're thinking about giving Harvey a shot tomorrow just for the hell of it," Collins said with a grin. "Seems to be working."
Matz appeared as if he might be headed for a hard-luck loss when Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta retired 10 in a row between the second -- when Mets catcher Rene Rivera delivered a run-scoring groundout -- and the fifth.
But Asdrubal Cabrera led off the sixth with a single and Conforto followed with a homer for New York, which scored just four runs in losing two of three to the Nationals the previous three nights.
"It is nice to get that one after a rough series and one (in which) we didn't score too many runs," Conforto said. "It feels like now we're headed in the right direction."
Matz faced the minimum after Carter's home run. Brewers third baseman Hernan Perez hit a two-run single in the sixth but was caught stealing to end the inning.
"You score two runs, you're going to have a hard time winning games," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
After a 1-2-3 seventh by Matz, right-handers Reed and Familia (14th save) each threw a perfect frame to close out Matz's sixth win in as many starts, a stretch in which he has compiled a 1.35 ERA.
While Harvey is 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA, Matz and right-handers Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are a combined 13-4 with a 2.47 ERA.
Conforto was the only player on either team with two hits Friday. Neil Walker walked in the second, went to third on a single by Lucas Duda and scored on a groundout by Rene Rivera for the Mets (23-18), who moved into second place in the National League East, 2 1/2 games behind the Nationals.
Carter's homer was his 13th of the season, which moved him into a tie for the NL lead.
"Nothing else happened in this game," Carter said. "That's just how baseball is."
Peralta, who entered the game with a 7.30 ERA, allowed the three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six over 5 2/3 innings for the Brewers (18-24).
NOTES: During his pregame press conference, Mets manager Terry Collins said RHP Matt Harvey would remain in the rotation for next week's series against the Nationals in Washington, though he wasn't sure yet which day — Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday — Harvey would start. ... Mets 3B David Wright got a scheduled day off as part of the maintenance for his spinal stenosis. ... The Brewers recalled OF Keon Broxton from Triple-A Colorado Springs and placed OF Domingo Santana (right shoulder strain) on the 15-day disabled list. ... Brewers LF Ryan Braun (back) missed his third straight game. ... A pair of Brewers who played for the Mets last season, OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis and RHP Carlos Torres, received their 2015 NL championship rings from Collins and Mets assistant general manager John Ricco.
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