Matt Harvey's rise as the New York Mets' ace had the struggling franchise feeling good about the future.
Now, that future may include Tommy John surgery.
A day after Harvey was lost for the season, the Mets will try to avoid matching their longest slide of 2013 on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.
New York (58-71) hasn't reached the playoffs since 2006 and seems headed for a fifth straight losing season for the first time since a six-year stretch from 1991-96.
Harvey was giving the Mets optimism that at least one of those streaks would end soon.
Instead, the 24-year-old phenom was ruled out for the remainder of 2013 after a partially torn ligament in his right elbow was discovered Monday. Harvey and the Mets are hopeful that he'll avoid Tommy John surgery, but that decision isn't likely to come for at least two more weeks.
"It was tough. Obviously it was the last thing I was expecting. I am going to do everything I can to avoid surgery," said Harvey, the NL starter in last month's All-Star game at Citi Field and owner of a 2.27 ERA - second-lowest in the majors.
Hours after learning of Harvey's injury, New York's losing streak reached five with a 2-1 defeat in the opener of this four-game series between NL East rivals that are virtually out of playoff contention.
A day after Harvey's injury, New York sent outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck to Pittsburgh for minor league infielder Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.
The Mets have been outscored 26-6 during their slide, putting them on the brink of their third six-game losing streak, with the most recent coming May 10-15.
Jonathon Niese (5-6, 4.03 ERA) is scheduled to get the ball in an effort to continue a strong stretch after missing over seven weeks with a torn rotator cuff. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA and has 23 strikeouts in 19 innings over three starts since returning.
He yielded one run and struck out nine in seven innings of a 4-1, 10-inning loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
Niese was charged with a 5-1 home loss to Philadelphia on April 28, allowing three runs - one earned - in 6 2-3 innings. He had been 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA over his previous four meetings at Citi Field.
The Phillies (60-71) have won seven of nine after losing the first two games following the firing of manager Charlie Manuel.
"We're grinding it out a little more, just playing hard from the start to the finish," said Cliff Lee, Monday's winning pitcher. "It's just more of a get-after-it-and-let's-go-frame of mind."
Production from Cody Asche is helping. The rookie third baseman is 11 for 29 (.379) with six RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak after batting .185 in his first 17 contests.
"He's really feeling comfortable in his whole game," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "With his approach and line-drive stroke that he naturally has, I think he's really relaxed and he's really starting to show that he's got a good chance to hit the ball every time."
Kyle Kendrick (10-10, 4.51) is expected to take the mound, and he's won four straight starts against the Mets behind a 3.18 ERA. The right-hander, however, was bailed out by the offense July 19, when he was reached for six runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 13-8 victory in Queens.
Kendrick is 2-4 with a 7.46 ERA in his last seven starts.
He yielded one run in five innings Thursday before giving up a three-run homer and leaving with no outs in the sixth of Philadelphia's 5-4 walkoff win over Colorado.