'Hart of the Order'
By Sean Hartnett
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There will be fresh optimism when the Mets take the field on Opening Day in 2014, thanks to the Amazin's dynamic duo of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Citi Field will no longer be the setting of gloomy Septembers and quiet Octobers.
These two magnificent starters under the age of 24 are ready to usher in a new era. The Mets will no longer be a convenient punchline. They might even steal the spotlight from the crosstown Yankees. That's how big of a buzz Harvey and Wheeler are capable of generating.
It's an event every time flamethrower Harvey takes the mound. His 2.25 ERA and 0.89 WHIP are only second to Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw among major-league starters. Harvey leads the entire National League with 187 strikeouts, only trailing Texas Rangers sensation Yu Darvish for the major-league lead.
For a franchise that has produced two electrifying starters in Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, Harvey's early accomplishments can be placed on the same mantle as "Tom Terrific" and "Doctor K."
Wheeler has become a star attraction in his own right. In his last nine starts, Wheeler has gone 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA. The Mets have won eight of the last nine times that Wheeler has taken the rubber.
His most recent triumph came on Tuesday night against the rival Atlanta Braves, who hold the MLB's best overall record.
The Georgia native has dominated the Braves. No other pitcher in the majors has more wins than Wheeler against Atlanta. He's the first Mets rookie since Seaver to earn three wins over the Braves in a rookie campaign.
After Tuesday's victory, Wheeler improved to 6-2 with a 3.49 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. While impressive, these stats cannot demonstrate how hard Wheeler competes on the mound.
Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings on Tuesday before the wheels started to come off in the seventh inning. When manager Terry Collins came out of the dugout to pull Wheeler, the 23-year-old was desperate to stay in the game and finish the job.
You have to admire a young starter who possesses this kind of self-belief.
"The more he pitches, obviously, the better he's gonna get," Collins said after the game. "He competes, boy. He was furious that he came out when he did."
The Braves currently hold a 17 1/2-game lead over the third-place Mets in the National League East standings, but the gap between these two teams is closing.
That enormous deficit obviously cannot be made up in 2013. Should Jonathon Niese rebound in 2014, the Mets will have a genuine chance to catch their old enemies with their outstanding top of the rotation.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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