By: Stache Staff

Pre-Game: New York Mets (50-53) at San Francisco Giants (55-47) aka Harvey Time


Fresh off a silly four-hour back and forth battle on Monday night, the Mets turn around and head right back to AT&T Park in San Francisco tonight,  putting their two-game winning streak — the team’s first consecutive wins since June — on the line in game two of a four-game set with the Giants. First pitch is scheduled for 10:15 p.m. and the game can be seen on SNY or heard, as always, on WFAN 660AM. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @dailystache or yours truly, @DevOnSports.

As they look to extend their streak to three, the Mets send ace, savior and golden god Matt Harvey to the hill for his second big league start. Harvey was brilliant in his first start and New York will need another solid effort from him, as well as perhaps a little more longevity, after spending all but one member of the bullpen in Monday’s win. Harvey will be opposed by San Francisco’s fallen ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is having a horrendous year, but has solid lifetime numbers in eight career starts against the Mets.

With the righthanded Lincecum on the bump, the Mets are lefty heavy in the lineup. Mike Baxter makes the start in left, his first start since June 1 and we all know what happened that day. Jordany Valdespin, who finished Monday’s game in centerfield, gets just his second career start in center. On the infield Justin Turner takes David Wright’s spot at third. It’s a routine day off for Wright, his first since May 19 in Toronto. Wright is mired in 4-for-32 slump over the last eight games and just 2-for-19 in his career off Lincecum. Daniel Murphy takes Wright’s spot in the three-hole of the lineup and is back at second base after getting part of Monday night off. Josh Thole will catch Matt Harvey.

Mets Lineup:

Valdespin – Tejada – Murphy – Davis – Hairston – Baxter – Turner – Thole – Harvey

Small Sample Stache: After his pinch-hit single last night, Baxter is now hitting .333/.400/.530 with 11 doubles in 65 at-bats this season. Interestingly, all 22 of Baxter’s hits this year have come against righties, against whom his numbers are .386/.446/.614 in 57 at-bats. He is 0-for-9 with a walk against lefties.

Giants Lineup:

Blanco – Theriot – Cabrera – Posey – Scutaro – Belt – Christian – Crawford – Lincecum

Small Sample Stache: Buster Posey is 14-for-43 (.326) lifetime against the Mets with seven extra base hits including two home runs.

Pitching Matchup:
NYM: Matt Harvey (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11 K) –  Does the kid have a repeat performance in him? How about a few more innings this time? Matt Harvey raised expectations to a ridiculous level with his debut and although it’s unfair to anticipate another game like he threw last Thursday, when have we Mets fans ever been known to temper our expectations?

Harvey was flat out dominant against the Diamondbacks on Thursday, striking out 11 — a Mets rookie record — over 5.1 innings while allowing merely three hits, walking three and allowing nary a run to cross the plate. He did so against the No. 6 offense in baseball in terms of OPS. Tonight he’ll face the No. 22 offense in the league and that low-ranked offense is without one of its key cogs, third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The elements are in place for another good night for Harvey.

SF: Tim Lincecum (4-1, 5.88 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 129 K) –  Lincecum is in the midst of, without a doubt, the worst season of his career. Known as one of the more dominant pitchers in the game prior to this season, Lincecum has been very hittable in 2012 and also doesn’t possess the same control he once did. Lincecum’s WHIP is three tenths higher this year than his career average, batters are hitting .261 against him as opposed to .227 for his career and his hits per nine (9.3) and walks per nine (4.3) are career worsts.

Lincecum seemed to plateau in June and it appeared possible he might turn things around. But he’s been even worse in July, pitching to a 6.84 ERA in five starts. He’s allowed at least five earned runs in three of those five starts, including his most recent one, when he lasted just 4.1 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits with three walks in a 6-3 loss to the Padres, a team that happens to have the NL’s worst offense. Lincecum is 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets with 59 strikeouts in 52 innings, but members of tonight’s lineup are 15-for-52 lifetime against Lincecum, led by Daniel Murphy, who is 5-for-11 against him with a couple of doubles.

Stache Keys to the Game:

  1. The Rookie – What can the Mets expect from Matt Harvey in start No. 2? That’s anybody’s guess. After all, who expected what he gave them in his first start? But what they need is an outing of at least six innings that keeps them in it. The game is likely to hinge on the battle between Harvey and the struggling Lincecum. Here’s hoping the kid gets it done again.
  2. The Man Right Now – It’s really impressive how smooth Jordany Valdespin has looked in the outfield this season, playing all three positions. Here’s a guy who played the infield his entire minor league career — 371 games entering this season — and has made a seamless transition to the outfield, even playing center as he will tonight. That’s unheard of. His bat has been pretty good too. When good things are happening for the Mets, Valdespin always seems to be in the thick of it and that’s why he’s leading off tonight.
  3. The Pen is Mightier – It’s unreasonable to expect nine innings out of Matt Harvey tonight, so we’ll see the bullpen at some point. But that pen group must be feeling a little bit taxed. Only Elvin Ramirez didn’t pitch on Monday, while Tim Byrdak, Josh Edgin and Manny Acosta each tossed more than 20 pitches. Terry Collins will be working with a skeleton crew tonight and he’ll have to manage it wisely to have any chance at another win.

This Date in Mets History:
Pick a trade, any trade, any trade at all.

Though the team was quiet today, the sixth straight year they haven’t budged on the last day of trading, trade deadline day has been a source of plenty of memorable moments in Mets history.

Most recently, on July 31, 2006, just hours after reliever Duaner Sanchez was involved in a car accident that ended his superb 2006 season and changed the course of his career and perhaps Mets history. Reacting to the loss of Sanchez, Omar Minaya swung a deal that sent Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh for Ramon Hernandez — to take Sanchez’s spot in the bullpen — and the enigma that was Oliver Perez.

The move brought to mind a trio of moves that the team pulled off on deadline day 1999 as they looked to make their first playoff run in 11 years. General Manager Steve Phillips first traded Brian McRae, Rigo Beltran and Tom Johnson to the Rockies for Daryl Hamilton and Chuck McElroy. Then he sent Jason Isringhausen and Greg McMichael to Oakland for Billy Taylor and finally he sent Craig Paquette to St. Louis for Shawon Dunston. None of the moves paid particularly big dividends — although who can forget Dunston’s at-bat in Game 5 of the NLCS — and Isringhausen went on to become one of the top closers of his generation.

Other notable Mets coming or going on July 31 throughout the years include Rick Aguilera (to the Twins), Kevin Tapani (to the Twins), Frank Viola (from the Twins), Bret Saberhagen (to the Rockies), Tony Phillips (from the Blue Jays), Bernard Gilkey (to the Diamondbacks), Bill Pulsipher (to the Brewers), Bobby Jones (to the Padres, Jason Bay (to the Padres) and Jay Payton (to the Rockies).

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