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Sunday, June 19, 2011
Niese falls for first time since May 24

By Mike Mazzeo

Jon Niese didn’t have it. Terry Collins could tell that right away.

And that’s why Collins decided to pull Niese after just 67 pitches in Sunday’s 7-3 loss to the Angels.

“He didn’t have it today,” Collins said of Niese. “They had some good swings. They were hitting the ball pretty good. I just thought it was time to get someone else in there.”

The 23-year-old left-hander, who came in sporting the second-best ERA in the majors since May 18 (1.58), was charged with four earned runs (five overall) on a season-high tying eight hits over four-plus innings -- tied for his shortest outing of the season (four on April 7 at Philadelphia). It was the first time Niese had allowed as many as four earned runs in an outing since May 12 (five at Colorado).

“I really wasn’t expecting it,” Niese (6-6, 3.70 ERA), who lost for the first time since May 24, said of being given such a quick hook. “Obviously I wanted to keep pitching, but things weren’t going my way. I mean one bloop hit after another went down, and it just wasn’t my day.”

It may have been had Niese not hit Maicer Izturis with an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the second to load the bases. But he did, and Erick Aybar made him pay by clearing the bases with a triple into the right field corner. The Angels had a 4-0 lead at that point, and rolled from there.

“It was supposed to be a sinker away,” Niese said of the pitch Aybar ripped past first baseman Daniel Murphy. “I thought it was away, but it was up a bit. He put the barrel on it.”

Niese also said he didn’t have command of his curveball, a pitch that has been big for him in his recent turnaround.

“I think I tried to count the number of curves he threw, and I think the total was six,” Collins said. “That’s one of the biggest differences. He wasn’t throwing it for strikes. That’s been the pitch that makes his fastball better. They just sat fastball after fastball and made good swings.”