The two pitchers, each in the NL’s top six in wins, square off on Friday when the Mets and Reds continue their four-game series at Shea Stadium.
Maine (10-4, 2.71 ERA) entered this season with eight wins and a 4.73 ERA in 24 career starts, but has been the unquestioned ace of the Mets’ rotation. He has won four straight starts for the second time this year, and is looking to extend the streak to a career-high five consecutive victories.
The right-hander allowed two runs and six hits while striking out a career-high nine in 7 2-3 innings to beat Houston 6-2 on July 5. It was the seventh time in his last eight starts that Maine held his opponent to two runs or fewer.
“You see him progressing, see him growing,” manager Willie Randolph told the Mets’ official Web site.
Maine will be making his first appearance against Cincinnati, which has won each of Harang’s last six starts.
Harang (9-2, 3.67), who led the NL in wins (16) and strikeouts (216) in 2006, is near the top of the league in both categories again this season.
The right-hander has won four straight decisions, but didn’t receive one Sunday despite holding Arizona to one run and six hits in eight innings. The Reds went on to win 4-3 in 11 to finish the first half with four straight wins.
“Guys have been playing loose and having fun,” said Harang, who is 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in two career starts against the Mets. “Everybody’s been contributing in their own way.”
The Reds (36-53) had their season-high win streak snapped, however, with a 3-2 defeat in the opener of this series on Thursday. They were held to four hits, matching their lowest total since a two-hit performance against the Chicago Cubs on April 15.
Scott Hatteberg, batting .515 (17-for-33) in his last 10 games, drove in both of Cincinnati’s runs with a two-out single in the second inning. Hatteberg has a home run and a walk in his two career plate appearances against Maine.
The Mets (49-39) opened a game with back-to-back home runs for the first time in the franchise’s 46-year history when Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay connected on Thursday. New York improved to 5-0 when Reyes homers.
Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge, who was recalled from Double-A Binghamton before the game, recorded his first hit of the year on Thursday, then barely beat a tag at home plate to score the go-ahead run.
“It was a good throw and that made it pretty close,” Milledge said. “I knew it would be close. I kind of waited a split second to get my hand in around him a little.”
While New York regained a share of the NL lead with its 49th win, it was only the team’s third victory in nine games this month after it struggled in the last week of a road trip before the All-Star break.
The Mets, however, have won six of seven at Shea, where they have outscored opponents 30-11 while posting a 1.41 ERA since June 22.
Carlos Beltran is batting .118 (2-for-17) in his last five home games, but is 5-for-16 (.313) with three doubles and a home run in his career against Harang.