Series preview: Mets offer one compelling matchup

The Cardinals did not face Mets ace Matt Harvey when the teams played a four-game series at Busch Stadium last month. They will not miss Harvey this week at Citi Field.

The 24-year-old right-hander will oppose Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in a Thursday matinee matching two pitchers in contention to start the All-Star Game.

Harvey, in his second season, has emerged as one of the National League’s most dominant starters. Armed with a fastball that averages 95.4 mph — tied with Stephen Strasburg for the game’s fastest — Harvey has started 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA. He has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts and only twice has he given up as many as four runs.

Seeing the youngster start against the team with the majors’ best record should get plenty of media attention in New York. It likely will be the only game in the three-game series to generate much buzz.

The Mets are a team that remains on the road to nowhere. They have gone 8-12 since leaving St. Louis, with half of the wins coming in a stunning sweep of the Yankees in interleague play. Their pitching has been decent but their offense has been as weak as any in the game. The Mets have outscored only one team — the Pirates — since they dropped three of four in St. Louis.

While they have averaged 3.1 runs since May 17, the Cardinals have averaged 5.7. In the same stretch, the Mets have hit .219 with a .278 on-base percentage and .348 slugging percentage; the Cardinals .297/.354/.442.

No wonder the New Yorkers continue to shuffle their roster. Rick Ankiel, who made his Mets’ debut in St. Louis, was designated for assignment Saturday. The following day, the Mets demoted three players, including first baseman Ike Davis. Davis overcame a slow start in 2012 to finish with 32 homers. But the Mets grew tired of waiting this season and sent Davis to Class AAA hitting .161 and averaging a strikeout every 3.1 plate appearances.

As few as two Mets — third baseman David Wright and catcher John Buck — could line up at the same position in Tuesday night’s series opener as they did in St. Louis.

The Cardinals, meantime, are on a roll. They have scored at least nine runs in three of their past four games. Three players bring in hitting streaks of at least 10 games: David Freese (19), Matt Carpenter (18) and Carlos Beltran (10), while Allen Craig’s 12-game streak was snapped Sunday night.

The good times should continue for St. Louis. After facing the Mets, the Cardinals visit last-place Miami for three games before returning home for a four-game set against the last-place Cubs.

That kind of schedule should allow the Cardinals to build on a record that already is the best in the majors. For their next opponents, continuing a season that is heading in an opposite direction of their next opponents.  

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at