NEW YORK -- Pasted along the Party City Deck wall just beyond Citi Field's left-field fence hung a fan-made sign that read, "We want Harvey."
As if Miguel Batista needed a visual reminder.
In wake of Dillon Gee's likely season-ending surgery, Saturday's start against the Dodgers was awarded to the 41-year-old Batista, despite speculation that top prospect Matt Harvey could get the call. Harvey was solid in Monday's "audition" start with Triple-A Buffalo -- he allowed two runs on three hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking four and hitting a batter. But Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Batista was the best option.
New York fans in attendance for the 8-5 loss on Saturday afternoon may have disagreed.
Batista was serenaded with thunderous boos no more than 15 minutes into the game, after surrendering three first-inning walks separated only by a James Loney RBI single. He escaped the inning having allowed just one run, but surrendered three more in the top of the third before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.
The 17-year veteran said after the game that any pressure surrounding this outing -- just his fifth start of the season and first since May 19 -- had no effect on his performance, but rather any issues he dealt with on the mound stemmed from the significant gaps in between starts.
But the short outing -- Batista's pitch count stood at 81 when he was pulled after the third inning -- did put added strain on the Mets' bullpen, which was forced to deliver six innings of relief for the second consecutive day.
"We needed some innings," manager Terry Collins said. "We had talked before the game, 80 to 90 pitches is what we hoped we could get out of him -- and he hadn't started in quite a while. But he got to 80 pitches in a hurry, so I had to make a move."
With the exception of Jeremy Hefner -- who allowed one run in both the fourth and fifth innings -- New York's league-worst 'pen did manage to hold the Dodgers' offense in check. But making an appearance out of the bullpen, R.A. Dickey surrendered a two-run, ninth-inning home run to Juan Uribe that gave Los Angeles some much-needed insurance.
Chris Capuano delivered his second quality start against his former team this season, holding New York to three runs over seven innings to earn his 10th win.
"It was great coming back. I love this park," Capuano said.
The Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the third on RBI singles by both Scott Hairston and Jason Bay, and Ronny Cedeno added a solo home run in the sixth. But the Dodgers' southpaw, whose season in Los Angeles bears no resemblance to his 2011 campaign with the Mets, struck out nine and walked only one to keep an early lead intact.
"It was great just to get the win," Capuano said. "I try not to use [No. 10] as a benchmark. But it does feel really good."
The Mets attempted to stage a rally in the bottom of the eighth off Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario. But after a pinch-hit RBI triple by Daniel Murphy and an RBI groundout by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, pinch-hitter Josh Thole ended the frame with a groundout to second.
Now at .500 for the first time since May 4, New York's second half has gotten off to a start even the most pessimistic fans didn't predict. With an upcoming three-game set against first-place Washington, followed by an 11-game West Coast road trip, time is running low to turn things around.
"This time of year, they all become the most important game each and every day," Collins said. "We came back today, made it a game, but we've got to keep fighting. The clubhouse is filled with guys that understand that and realize that's [how] they play and that's what we do. It's not fun going through what we're going through."
The cure for New York's 1-7 post-All-Star break slump extends far beyond a new arm in the starting rotation. But with Johan Santana placed on the 15-day disabled list, those who have hung "We want Harvey" signs at Citi Field this season may potentially get an answer to their call.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.