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AP - Sports

Matt Harvey's emergence as the New York Mets' ace started with a dominant performance against the San Diego Padres.

Another one could mean his first road victory in almost two months.

Harvey could use some help from his offense as he attempts to rebound from another road defeat in his first visit to pitcher-friendly Petco Park on Sunday.

It took little time for Harvey (9-4, 2.23 ERA) to establish himself as a bona fide ace for New York (56-65), giving the club hope for the future in what appears to be a fifth straight losing season.

The 24-year-old right-hander's rise began with an outstanding effort in an 8-4 win over San Diego (55-68) on April 3. He struck out 10 and limited the Padres to one hit in seven innings, only adding to the hype and hope for a franchise looking to forge an identity beyond injured third baseman David Wright.

Harvey has a 1.77 ERA in five starts since starting the All-Star game last month. However, he has just a 2-2 record to show for it since he's been backed by one or no runs in three of those outings.

He's also 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA over his last four road games. That stretch continued with Tuesday's 4-2 defeat to the red-hot Dodgers, during which Harvey gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.

"I was pretty inconsistent. I just couldn't locate anything," Harvey said. "When I tried to go in, it was over the middle. When I tried to go away, I was yanking it a bit. And when you're not hitting your spots and making quality pitches against a team like that, they're going to put the ball in play."

The Mets hope for an improved effort from Harvey after falling 8-2 to the Padres on Saturday following victories in the first two of this four-game set.

He'll have to contend with the hot-hitting Will Venable, who is batting .375 during a career-high 14-game hitting streak - the longest active run in the majors.

The outfielder kept the streak going Saturday, matching his personal best with four hits and scoring three runs. His only hit in five at-bats versus Harvey was a triple, but he's also fanned three times.

Nick Hundley, who has struck out in both appearances against Harvey, had a two-run homer and a single Saturday after missing three games while on the paternity list, as his wife gave birth to their first child Thursday.

"That's the best moment of my career by far," Hundley said of his career-high 10th homer. "I couldn't stop smiling. I thought about my daughter and got a little emotional on the bench."

The Padres are scheduled to counter Harvey with Eric Stults (8-10, 3.68), who is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in five career starts versus the Mets. He's won the last two, allowing one unearned run in 10 innings.

The left-hander beat them April 4, striking out seven in five scoreless innings of a 2-1 win at New York.

Stults, though, hasn't come close to being that effective of late, going 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA over his last five starts after winning his previous two while allowing two runs in 15 innings.

He gave up five runs and a career high-tying 11 hits with three walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-5 win at Colorado on Tuesday.

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