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Sunday, July 22, 2012
Notebook: Niese, RISP and Frank update

By Matt Ehalt

As the Mets' pitching staff battles injuries and turns to youngsters, Jon Niese continues to give the team solid outings. The lefty gave up three runs in seven-plus innings and earned a no-decision in the Dodgers' eventual 8-3 win in 12 innings Sunday at Citi Field.

"Jon Niese pitched a very good game for us," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Kept us in the game and gave us a lot of opportunities which we had to win this game."

While the Mets struggled to score runs Sunday, the lefty kept his team in the game, only yielding a two-run homer in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth. When he left with two men on and no outs in the eighth, his team was behind 3-2, but the Mets managed to come back and tie the game in the ninth.

Niese has thrown at least seven innings in each of his past five starts and has a 2.88 ERA over his last 11 outings. In just one of those outings has Niese allowed more than four earned runs, and opponents have scored three or less earned runs against him in five of his last six starts.

It's important for Niese to step up with Johan Santana and Dillon Gee sidelined, and as of late, he's been able to consistently give the team solid outings. He's 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA.

"I've been feeling good lately with everything as far as pounding the zone and using every pitch and throwing all the pitches for strikes," Niese said. "I feel my conditioning is getting a lot better and I think that helps with going deep in games."

RISP FAIL: The Mets have been great this season in coming up with hits in big spots, but Sunday was not one of those days. They had multiple chances to win Sunday's game but went just 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position, stranding 14 runners in the loss.

In the 10th, the Mets put the first two men on but a failed sacrifice bunt resulted in an out at third and Ruben Tejada followed with an inning-ending double play. In a scene all too familiar throughout the day, the Mets wasted a leadoff double in the 12th as they fell to 1-8 since the All-Star break.

The Mets went 8-39 (.205) and left 32 men on base as they were swept by the Dodgers.

"We've played very well and done a lot of good things. We continue to hit with two outs and get big hits and we just have been unable to come up with the big play right now or the big hit or the big inning that we need to get through it all," Collins said.

FRANK PITCHES: Injured closer Frank Francisco threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Sunday and will be re-evaluated Monday. He has been on the disabled list since June 24 with a left oblique strain.