Matt Harvey’s bid to become the first pitcher in the majors to six victories is coming not only against a team he’s historically dominated, but also one that’s been among the worst in baseball offensively.
Extending his season-opening winning streak Friday night in Philadelphia would give him a 6-0 record against the Phillies, as well as make him the first New York Mets pitcher to win his first six starts in a season since 1990.
Harvey (5-0, 2.41 ERA) matched Pedro Martinez’s 5-0 mark from 2006 with last Friday’s 4-0 home victory over Washington. He limited the Nationals to five hits and struck out only three, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.50 remains among the best in the majors.
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He can equal Frank Viola (1990), Dwight Gooden (1988) and Dick Selma (1968) as the only pitchers in team history to win their first six starts of a season. Selma’s streak had relief appearances mixed in, and only Viola won his first seven starts.
Harvey received 26 runs of support through his first four starts, but he made one run enough against Washington.
"That’s what the definition of an ace is," outfielder Michael Cuddyer said.
The Phillies had three runs in six innings of a 6-5 Mets victory April 14, giving Harvey a 1.60 ERA in six starts in the series. Ryan Howard (1 for 10 with seven strikeouts), Ben Revere (1 for 7) and Carlos Ruiz (0 for 5) highlight the struggles against him.
Chase Utley figures to be back in the Philadelphia lineup after sitting out the last two games. The second baseman, batting .103 in 87 at-bats, is 6 for 15 with no strikeouts against Harvey. He homered along with Cody Asche in the April matchup against the right-hander, and Utley later went deep off reliever Sean Gilmartin.
Cole Hamels (1-3, 4.14), the only Philadelphia starting pitcher to deny Harvey a win, has had highs and lows through six starts. He allowed six runs and 10 hits in six innings of Saturday’s 7-0 loss in Miami, an outing that followed two in which he allowed one earned run over 13 innings.
The left-hander is issuing 4.62 walks per nine innings.
"When I don’t locate I think I get hammered," Hamels said.
Early season struggles are nothing new. Hamels’ first seven starts last season resulted in a 1-3 record and 4.43 ERA before he went 8-6 with a 1.91 over the 23 that followed. His first 2014 start against the Mets was forgettable, but he was 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA in the four that followed.
Cuddyer (1 for 15) and Lucas Duda (2 for 16) have struggled against Hamels, but Curtis Granderson (5 for 11) and Juan Lagares (11 for 25) have thrived.
Granderson homered along with Dilson Herrera in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Baltimore. New York (18-10) took both games from the Orioles after dropping seven of 10. It’s batting .220 in its 5-7 stretch, but Herrera’s 3-for-3 day could give the banged-up club some hope after the 21-year-old went 1 for 13 in his first four games.
The Mets swept the three-game series in New York from April 13-15, giving them four straight wins over the Phillies and victories in 20 of 26. They’ve also gone 21-7 in Philadelphia over the previous three seasons.
The Phillies (10-19) fell 7-5 in Atlanta on Wednesday, dropping two of three in the series, though they’re showing some life offensively with a .271 average in four games after hitting an MLB-worst .219 until that point. Revere was 4 for 5 with three doubles Wednesday and is 9 for 19 in four games.