The New York Mets appear to be finally pulling out of their lengthy funk, but they'll likely have a tough time overcoming the damage to their playoff chances.
Matt Harvey is giving them reason for optimism.
The Mets look to win for the sixth time in eight tries as they turn to their impressive rookie pitcher in the finale of a three-game road set against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
New York (53-55) has won five of seven after dropping 14 of the previous 16 to fall out of close contention in the NL East and wild-card races. The Mets remain 11 1/2 games behind division-leading Washington, and eight games back of the two wild cards.
They continued their recent turnaround Saturday by winning 6-2 at San Diego (45-64), bouncing back after dropping the series opener 3-1.
While reaching the postseason may be a tall order, New York has cause to feel good about the future following a pair of impressive performances from Harvey (1-1, 1.59 ERA), the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft.
The 23-year-old right-hander doesn't deserve too much blame for Tuesday's 4-1 loss at San Francisco. He allowed three runs - two earned - and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings, while the offense was held to six hits and Ruben Tejada made matters worse with a two-run error.
That performance came five days after Harvey set a record for a Mets debut with 11 strikeouts while yielding three hits in 5 1-3 scoreless innings of a 3-1 win at Arizona.
"This guy's big and strong," manager Terry Collins told the Mets' official website. "I just like the way he works. I just like his composure on the mound. It doesn't seem like he gets very rattled when he's out there.
"He knows what he has to do. He tries to make pitches, doesn't give in. I tell you, I've been pretty impressed. I thought for sure you'd see a good arm coming up here, but he knows what he's doing out there."
While Harvey provides hope on the mound, Tejada's offensive production is another reason for the Mets to be optimistic about 2013 and beyond. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .370 over his last 10 games, raising his season average to .321.
He's batting .342 in 11 meetings with the Padres, and has four hits through the first two games of this series.
Losers of six of eight, the Padres will give the ball to Jason Marquis (4-6, 4.08), who will try to rebound from one of his worst performances of the season. He surrendered seven runs - five in the third inning - and a season high-tying three homers in 6 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 7-6 loss at Cincinnati, snapping a personal three-start winning streak.
"I wasn't too good early on ... I got some balls up and fell behind," Marquis said. "But I tried to stay out there and battle the best that I could."
Marquis is 1-4 with a 6.02 ERA in his last eight starts against the Mets, getting the lone victory with the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 22, 2008.