Rockies-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

Only two teams have fared worse since the All-Star break than the New York Mets, who have gone from one-half game out of playoff contention to an afterthought.

They may, however, have found a pitcher who can anchor their rotation in future pennant races.

Matt Harvey looks to build off his best performance in the majors to date Wednesday night and help the Mets avoid dropping a sixth consecutive series in the third of four games against the visiting Colorado Rockies.

Cleveland and Houston are the lone teams with worse records in baseball's unofficial second half than New York (57-66), which fell to 11-26 since the break with Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Rockies (48-73).

"Everybody in this clubhouse can see it, we're playing poorly. I don't think we're a bad team, but we are playing very bad right now,'' third baseman David Wright said.

"You watch our games and you see what we see, we need to do a better job executing. We got away from doing the things we did in the first half, we need to do that to be successful.''

Bright spots have been hard to find, but watching Harvey (2-3, 3.00 ERA) - widely considered one of the Mets' top two prospects - settle into the majors has been a big one. The right-hander has been solid in four of his five starts, holding opponents to a .191 average while striking out 10.2 batters per nine innings.

He was at his best Thursday in Cincinnati. Harvey held the powerful Reds to one run and four hits over 7 2-3 innings, striking out eight in an 8-4 win.

"What you saw tonight was a little taste of what this guy's going to be able to do," manager Terry Collins told the team's official website. "When he's got the command going like he did tonight, everything working, he's going to be tough to hit."

Harvey finally got some run support Thursday, but offense has been hard to come by for New York. The Mets have been held to two or fewer runs in four straight games and nine of their last 14.

After facing a pair of right-handers in the series' first two games, New York gets a look at lefty Jeff Francis (4-4, 6.07) on Wednesday - but that might not be a good thing. The Mets are 17-28 when facing southpaw starters in 2012, the most losses in the majors.

Francis, of course, doesn't exactly register very high on the scale of intimidating lefties. He's 1-2 with an 8.59 ERA in his last five starts after giving up four runs over five innings and leaving without a decision in Friday's 6-5 loss to Miami.

Francis is 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five career starts against the Mets, whom he hasn't faced since 2010.

He'll likely want to forget what it's like to pitch to Wright and Jason Bay. Wright is 6 for 12 and has taken Francis deep three times, and Bay is 8 for 12 with two homers.

Harvey will be making his debut against Colorado and New York should get its first look in this series at Carlos Gonzalez. Colorado's left fielder returned from Venezuela late Tuesday after the death of his grandfather, and he'll be activated from the bereavement list prior to this game.

Gonzalez went 6 for 12 with two homers, three walks and seven RBIs when the Mets took two of three in Denver in April.