The future is now for the New York Mets, as their top two pitching prospects will be on display Tuesday in a day/night doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Ordinarily it would be the sensational Matt Harvey getting the attention, but his start in game one will likely be overshadowed by the major league debut of top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler, who will go in the nightcap.
Wheeler, of course, was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco Giants, who dealt him to the Mets in the Carlos Beltran deal in 2011.
"This kid is very, very talented," manager Terry Collins said. "We're very lucky to have him. Everybody is looking forward to seeing him pitch."
In 13 starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, Wheeler was 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA and struck out 73 batters in 68 2/3 innings. A Georgia native, Wheeler is expected to have a large contingent of supporters.
"I know it's going to be a big moment in my life," Wheeler said. "There's probably going to be some nerves."
New York can only hope he has the type of impact that Harvey has. The talented righty, though, is coming off his first loss of the season his last time out, though, it was through no fault of his own.
Harvey gave up just a run and five hits in seven innings to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, while striking out seven and walking a batter in the 2-1 loss. Still, he fell to 5-1 on the year to go along with a 2.04 ERA.
"The wins and losses don't mean anything to me personally," Harvey said. "It's just a matter of the team winning. Today I didn't do my job and put up zeros, and got the loss."
In Harvey's six career defeats, the Mets have scored a total of seven runs, including three when he has actually been in the game.
"Today I needed to go out and put up zeros and I wasn't able to do that," said a frustrated Harvey. "If I go seven zeros, then we're still playing the ballgame and have a better chance of winning. Obviously, I'm not happy about losing. I don't like losing even if I don't pitch."
Opposing Harvey in the first game will be righty Alex Wood, who will be making his first career start. Wood, a second round pick of the Braves in the 2012 draft, has made six appearances out of the bullpen for the Braves and has pitched to a 3.25 ERA without recording a decision.
"He's been one of the best in baseball all year, so it's exciting to be out there surrounded by guys like that, especially pitching against them," Wood said. "Hopefully, I'll rise to the occasion. But that's definitely exciting."
Going against Wheeler in the second game will be left-handed veteran Paul Maholm, who is 7-5 with a 3.65 ERA. Maholm lost his last time out in San Diego, as the Padres reached him for five runs (4 earned) and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Maholm is 6-3 lifetime versus the Mets with a 3.58 ERA in 13 games (12 starts).
Atlanta won the opener of this set in thrilling fashion on Monday, as Freddie Freeman blasted a two-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the Braves past the Mets, 2-1.
Mets starter Dillon Gee (5-7) scattered three hits over 8 1/3 innings, then gave up a base hit to Justin Upton before Freeman crushed a no-doubter over the wall in right field to give the Braves the win.
"I knew I hit it good enough. I didn't know if it was going to stay fair, actually, because it was an inside pitch. I didn't know if I was able to get my hands inside. But once I saw it get up to its highest peak, I knew it was gone," said Freeman.
David Carpenter (1-0) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the win.
The start of the game was delayed three hours, 43 minutes because of rain. The weather could be an issue again on Tuesday as the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms all day long.