Fireballer Harvey toes rubber versus Buccos

Early-season phenom Matt Harvey can pitch the New York Mets to a series split on Sunday afternoon when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a four-game set at Citi Field.

The 24-year-old Connecticut native was 3-5 in 10 starts in a brief major- league debut last season, then began 2013 in the rotation and instantly made a positive impact.

He strung together defeats of San Diego, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Washington to begin the season while allowing a combined three runs on 10 hits in 29 innings and posting a 0.93 earned run average.

His win streak has since been snapped by three consecutive no-decisions, but he was nearly pristine in his most recent start, a 1-0 New York win against the Chicago White Sox in which Harvey allowed one hit, walked none and struck out 12 in nine innings of work.

The Mets won the game for reliever Bobby Parnell in the bottom of the 10th.

Harvey, who allowed a .200 opposition batting average last season, is permitting just a .133 clip through 49 1/3 innings this season.

He has never faced the Pirates.

He's opposed by Venezuelan righty Jeanmar Gomez, who's starting for the third straight time after working in relief in his initial five outings of 2013.

The 25-year-old, who replaced Erik Bedard in the Pirates' rotation, compiled a 2.63 earned run average in 13 2/3 innings of relief work, including a defeat of the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 8.

In two starts, against Milwaukee and Seattle, Gomez has pitched nine full innings while allowing six hits and two earned runs with four walks and eight strikeouts.

The defeat of the Mariners on May 7 evened his career mark at 16-16 after he'd gone 14-16 in 42 appearances with the Cleveland Indians through the end of 2012.

Gomez was traded to the Pirates for a minor-leaguer on Jan. 9 and has never faced the Mets.

On Saturday, Jose Tabata went 4-for-5 with a two-run homer, an RBI double and three runs scored as the Pirates received a sharp season debut from Francisco Liriano in a 11-2 win over the Mets.

The Pirates recorded 16 hits, their second straight day in double figures, and tagged Mets starter Jonathon Niese (2-4) for five runs in the fifth inning to break the contest open.

Jody Mercer hit a pair of solo homers, Mike McKenry knocked in three runs, Clint Barmes drove in a pair and Andrew McCutchen had an RBI and scored twice in the Pirates' second straight win.

It was a successful first outing in a Pittsburgh uniform for Liriano (1-0), who struck out nine over 5 1/3 innings and allowed just a run on six hits. The lefty signed with the Pirates in February, but was in the middle of recovering from a broken right arm suffered in December.

"I tried not to get too excited," Liriano said. "I didn't want to try to do too much."

Niese's struggles continued, charged with the loss for the fourth time in his last five starts. He gave up eight runs on eight hits and lasted only 4 1/3 innings.

"I'm not really deceiving anybody right now," Niese said. "With my arm angle being down, I think they can pick the ball up a lot sooner, and that's why I think they're not chasing some of the pitches that they normally have chased. Hopefully I can get it back."

New York only had six hits, with Marlon Byrd driving in the only run on an infield single.

New York won five of its seven matchups with the Pirates last season.