CHICAGO - Run production has slowed to a trickle. And with each passing night, it becomes increasingly clear just how much they need David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud to get healthy soon.
The Mets, once soaring, have hit a speed bump.
But true aces show up in these situations. They fill the void. They function as stoppers. They keep things from getting out of hand.
And on a frigid night at Wrigley Field, the Mets' Matt Harvey lived up to that responsibility, tossing seven shutout innings against the Cubs.
The Mets' bullpen could not match Harvey's magical touch: Carlos Torres gave up the tying run in the eighth, and after giving up two singles to start the bottom of the ninth, intentionally walked Miguel Montero.
Jeurys Familia was brought in, and after striking out Jorge Sole swinging, walked Chris Coghlan and the Mets fell, 2-1.
Harvey had bounced back from his first loss of the season with an effort worthy enough for his sixth victory. He struck out nine -- matching the season high he established in his first start back from Tommy John surgery.
For the fourth time this season, Harvey took the mound following a Mets loss. He collected a victory in each of the first three instances. In that stretch, he posted a 0.83 ERA.
Wednesday night, he departed after 100 pitches in line for his fourth win following a Mets loss. But the Cubs tied the game in the eighth on Dexter Fowler's RBI single off Torres.
The conditions helped the pitchers, with Wrigley Field's infamously fickle winds blowing in toward home plate.
With temperatures at 43 degrees at first pitch, some players dressed as if they were about to build snowmen. They debated how many layers to wear beneath their uniforms. A few wore coverings for their faces.
Harvey sported long sleeves as he dueled with Cubs righthander Jason Hammel. It didn't take long for the conditions to come into play.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the first but failed to score. Wilmer Flores thought he had a sacrifice fly. But the wind took his fly ball and blew it back toward the infield.
Coghlan waited for the ball in front of the warning track in left. But the wind knocked it down, forcing Coghlan to make a last-minute charge to run down the ball.
But the Mets broke through in the sixth, scratching out one run on Michael Cuddyer's RBI groundout, though the damage could have been much more significant.
Daniel Murphy, who doubled earlier in the inning, swiped third base while the Cubs were going into a shift ahead of Lucas Duda's at-bat. The heads-up play gave the Mets a runner at third with just one out.
They made nothing of it.
But Harvey seemed determine to make the run count. Perhaps the only moment he looked to lose control was at the plate, when with a runner on first base in the seventh inning, he popped up a bunt and neglected to run it out.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo let the ball drop and started an easy double play.
On the mound, however, Harvey was locked in.
Down the Mets' lineup, the batters were locked out.
In his previous start, a loss to the Phillies, Harvey pitched with two extra days' rest. He looked uncomfortable.
"His sequences aren't completely to where they're going to be," pitching coach Dan Warthen said. "That's why I think he's still got room for improvement in a lot of areas."
Last night, while pitching on regular rest, Harvey responded to a return to routine.
His command appeared sharp. He threw tight sliders and curveballs. And with both weapons at his disposal, he mixed them effectively.
Twice, he got Cubs phenom to strikeout on nasty sliders. By the end of the night, he had lowered his ERA to 2.31. Yet, he didn't get enough support to win.