July 24, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets rookie pitcher Matt Harvey (33) stretches before a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. Harvey is scheduled to make his first major league start on Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
The Mets have won just one game since the All Star break, and they have gone from the top of the wild card hunt to seven games back in the race in what has felt like a matter of minutes. But if there is anything that has happened over the extraordinarily frustrating stretch that could push the Mets back towards the wild card pack, it is the arrival of top pitching prospect Matt Harvey.
While there's a chance that Harvey struggles as he begins his major league career, he is decidedly not Miguel Batista. The starting rotation, which was the Mets' biggest strength through the first half of the season, has fallen upon injured times with Dillon Gee likely out for the rest of the season and Johan Santana aiming to come back in the second week of August. That leaves R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Young, Jeremy Hefner in the rotation alongside Harvey.
The Mets would need a sustained period of success to get back in the playoff mix, but the odds seem better with Harvey than they did with Batista. In twenty starts with Triple-A Buffalo this year, Harvey posted a 3.68 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. For the sake of comparison, Batista's 6.0 BB/9 was about as bad as it gets, and it would be a surprise if Harvey walked that many opponents now that he's with the Mets.
Strange things can and do happen in baseball every year. The odds are low right now, but if the Mets can pull get within three-to-four games of the second wild card team over the next couple of weeks, they won't be out of the race. If Harvey can just pitch as well as Dillon Gee did this year, the Mets' rotation just might look good enough to close the team's gap in the wild card standings in August and September. If he exceeds Gee's production, the Mets could do a lot worse than a rotation of Dickey, Santana, Niese, Harvey, and Young down the stretch.