Facing the New York Mets has seemingly served as a wake-up call for the Pittsburgh Pirates' feeble offense over the last two days.
Matt Harvey will look to play stopper Sunday - a role that's suited him well of late - against Pittsburgh, which looks to win its first road series versus the Mets in over nine years.
Each of the last four starts for Harvey (4-0, 1.28 ERA) have followed losses by the Mets (14-19), with the right-hander holding opponents to a total of five runs over 27 1-3 innings while helping New York bounce back to victories three times.
Harvey also comes off his best outing yet, narrowly missing out on a perfect game as he limited the White Sox to one hit over nine innings in a 1-0 win in 10 innings Tuesday.
The lone hit was an infield single barely beaten out by Alex Rios.
"The best thing he had going is that he had everything going," catcher John Buck told the Mets' official website after Harvey struck out a career-high 12. "I think what really set (the tone) was the location of his fastball right off the bat ... He was locating his heater wherever and whenever I wanted."
Harvey is now called upon to quiet the suddenly-hot bats of the Pirates in his first start against them. In 12 games prior to Friday - including Thursday's 3-2 loss in the series opener - Pittsburgh went 11 for 81 (.136) with runners in scoring position, collecting one or fewer hits in such situations in all but two of those contests.
The Pirates (20-16) were 5 for 11 with runners in scoring position in Friday's 7-3 victory, then followed with a season-high six hits in 12 chances during Saturday's 11-2 win.
They tagged Mets starter Jonathon Niese, who matched a career worst by allowing eight runs. Jose Tabata was 4 for 5 with a home run and Jordy Mercer homered twice, backing Francisco Liriano, who struck out nine over 5 1-3 innings in his Pirates debut.
"For our guys to swing the bats today the way they did in a big ballpark, I think that was a feel good for the offensive side of our game," manager Clint Hurdle said.
While Pittsburgh's offense tries to get to Harvey, it will give the ball to Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.38) for his third start. Gomez pitched five shutout innings in a 4-1 win over Seattle on Tuesday despite learning he would start roughly three hours beforehand. He filled in for originally scheduled starter James McDonald, who was placed on the disabled list earlier in the afternoon.
But the short notice didn't seem to bother Gomez, who gave up two hits and two walks.
"A guy comes in here at 4 o'clock and you tell him he's going to start, to get that effort we were real happy," Hurdle said. "He continues to show up and do a very professional job in whatever we tell him to do."
Russell Martin, tied for the team lead with six homers, sat out Saturday for the fourth time in five games with stiffness in his neck.
John Buck is the only Met to face Gomez, going 0 for 3, while no Pirates have seen Harvey.
New York had been 13-3 against the Pirates at Citi Field prior to the last two losses. Pittsburgh hasn't won a road series versus the Mets since a three-game sweep April 16-18, 2004.
The Associated Press News Service
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