New York Mets: Jon Niese

Jonathon Niese 'lengthened out' in loss

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
NEW YORK -- The way Ryan Vogelsong was pitching and the way the New York Mets were hitting, this wasn't a game the Mets were going to win. Probably not from the time Jonathon Niese's throwing error led to a two-run second inning, and definitely not from the time Niese's pitching (and in his mind a mental error) led to a three-run seventh.

[+] EnlargeJonathon Niese
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsJonathon Niese made mistakes, but he also kept his pitch count low and made it to the ninth inning.
It ended up as a 5-1 Mets loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, and there sure weren't many positives for the Mets in this one.

But Niese did make it to the ninth inning, for the first time this season.

That's something.

It's more than something, in Mets manager Terry Collins' mind. As Niese sailed through this game with a low pitch count, Collins became determined to put his left-handed starter as deep into the game as he could.

The thinking was that in Niese's first two starts back from the disabled list, he had pitched only 11 innings combined. And the thinking was that if the Mets are to make the last two months of the season interesting, they're going to need tough innings from Niese.

"We've got to get this guy lengthened out, so it's not an effort for him to pitch the seventh," Collins said.

In a game where the Mets accomplished little else, at least they accomplished that. Niese didn't depart until he gave up a Brandon Crawford single to start the ninth, and he left having allowed three earned runs in eight innings-plus -- on only 87 pitches.

"I thought it was really good for Jon to be out there late in the game," Collins said.

What wasn't good for the Mets was that they had only two hits against Vogelsong, a ground-ball single by Juan Lagares in the sixth and a leadoff home run from Lucas Duda in the eighth. Vogelsong had never before thrown a pitch in the ninth inning in 132 previous big-league starts (his lone complete game was a rain-shortened six-inning shutout in 2011), but he sailed through nine against the Mets.

"It wasn't really uncomfortable at-bats," said Chris Young. "It was like one of those comfortable oh-fers. But you never knew what he was going to throw in any situation. If you sat back, you were behind in the count. If you were too aggressive, you made early outs.

"Either way, he was tough."

The same was true for Niese, but his throwing error in the second inning led to two runs. And after Crawford's one-out triple in the seventh, Niese hit Vogelsong with a pitch and then left a 1-2 fastball up to Hunter Pence, whose triple made it 4-0.

"I should have buried one," Niese said. "I did him a favor by leaving a pitch up. In this league you can't make those mistakes, especially when the opposing pitcher is throwing like that."

Niese was only pitching the seventh inning because Collins opted against pinch-hitting for him in the sixth. The Mets had a runner on second with one out in a 2-0 game, but Niese's pitch count was at 58 and the manager decided he would rather push his starter deeper into the game.

As Collins pointed out, Niese did hit the ball hard, a line drive caught at first base by Michael Morse. It turned into an inning-ending double play when Lagares made a baserunning mistake and was doubled off second base.

It was that kind of night for the Mets, not an encouraging beginning to August.

But at least Niese made it to the ninth inning. That's something.

Murph explains sixth-inning miscues

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
ST. LOUIS -- What happened in the sixth inning, when Daniel Murphy failed to catch Daniel Descalso's soft line drive?

"I didn't catch it," Murphy succinctly said.

That E-4 ultimately resulted in two unearned runs in what became a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.

Both Terry Collins and Murphy absolved first baseman Lucas Duda of any wrongdoing on the play, although it still seemed as though Murphy could have recorded the out at first had Duda gone to the bag earlier. He didn't, presuming Murphy would catch the soft liner.

"That was not Lucas' fault," Murphy insisted. "Once I dropped it the play was over."

After one unearned run subsequently scored in the sixth on Kolten Wong's RBI single, the Cardinals still had runners on the corners. And the Mets had another chance to escape the inning.

But on Wong's steal attempt of second, Murphy never applied the tag after receiving the throw from Anthony Recker. He saw Descalso breaking from third for the plate.

Replays suggested Murphy could have tagged out Wong and ended the inning. Descalso ultimately retreated to third base. He scored on Peter Bourjos' ensuing infield single.

Murphy agreed Wong would have been out at second.

So why did he focus on Descalso instead?

"I saw him break," Murphy said. "It was a very poor decision by me."

Jonathon Niese saw the Cardinals take a 5-1 lead against him as a result of the blunders.

"You've just got to focus up and execute pitches. I wasn't able to," Niese said. "I left a lot of pitches over the plate and gave up a bunch of hits."

Game turns into another Mets mess

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
NEW YORK -- Through seven innings, it was a normal game, a simple pitchers' duel.

Somehow, it turned into yet another New York Mets mess. Somehow, this season has quickly turned into a Mets mess, one that has left them with plenty of anger and frustration but very few runs, fewer wins and even fewer answers.

Thursday night's 5-1, 13-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers was just the latest defeat, the Mets' eighth in the past nine games. But in some ways, this one was even more disturbing than the others, and perhaps even more costly.

Closer Jenrry Mejia, forced out of the game in the 12th inning by what the Mets quickly announced as back stiffness, revealed after the game that he had first complained of the problem while warming up in the bullpen. Mejia described the issue as tightness and "a little bit of pain."

He said that despite that, he wanted to pitch Thursday. Despite what they heard, the Mets let him pitch and planned to have him pitch a second inning, too.

Mejia said he's hopeful that he'll feel better Friday.

The Mets will be hoping they feel better Friday, when they end a run of six straight games against first-place teams and welcome in the equally struggling San Diego Padres.

They'll also hope they can score a few runs. They scored just eight in the three games against the Brewers, and half of those came on one swing of the bat from journeyman catcher Taylor Teagarden. They continue to waste good performances from starting pitchers, just as they did when Jonathon Niese went 7⅔ innings and allowed just one run Thursday.

Niese was angry at being removed when he was, even though that decision by manager Terry Collins actually made plenty of sense. Aramis Ramirez (who hits Niese well and already had a home run) was at the plate, and with Niese at 97 pitches and due to bat second in the bottom of the eighth, he wasn't going to go another inning, anyway.

Collins had a good answer for that move, but he struggled both before and after Thursday's game to provide answers for the struggling offense. He resorted Thursday night to talking about how the Mets are keeping games close.

"We don't get blown out by anybody," Collins said. "We just can't come up with a hit when we need a hit."

They couldn't score when they had the winning run at third base with one out in the 11th, when Wilmer Flores grounded out and Anthony Recker took a called third strike (and then inexcusably got himself ejected from the game).

But the bigger issue is that David Wright remains in a horrible slump. Wright hit a couple of balls hard Thursday but went 1-for-5 and is now two for his past 31.

Worse yet, Wright's answers Thursday suggested he's getting frustrated by Citi Field's dimensions.

"I have to do a better job, especially when I'm here, of getting on top of the ball and hitting line drives," he said.

It wasn't much of an answer, but it was all he had. It was all the Mets had after another game gone wrong.

Attendance update: After announcing season-low crowds on back-to-back nights for the first two games of the Brewers series, the Mets announced a slightly larger crowd Thursday night, 22,155. Once again, though, there appeared to be nowhere close to that many people in the ballpark.

Niese survives cold, Cardinals, line drives

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
Jonathon Niese has apparently got this cold-weather thing figured out.

With a game-time temperature of 51 degrees and ridiculous winds that clearly impacted both starting pitchers, Niese fought his way through 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball to earn his first win of the season.
This was the sixth time in the past two seasons in which Niese was asked to pitch in such cold temperatures at first pitch. In three starts last season, he allowed 10 runs in 17 innings, including days of 34 and 28 degrees in back-to-back starts.

This season, he has allowed four runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched in his three cold-weather starts (50 degrees against the Reds, 45 against the Braves, 51 on Wednesday night).

“I don’t know what it is about Jon Niese and cold-weather games, but he pitched great tonight given the conditions,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Niese improved to 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA against the Cardinals for his career. That's the lowest ERA for any active starter who has made at least five starts against them, just ahead of Francisco Liriano's 1.95.

He has allowed three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings in his past three starts against them.

What’s working for Niese
The key to Niese’s start this season has been the performance of his cutter, and that was true on Wednesday night as well. He threw 13 of 21 for strikes to Cardinals hitters, which netted him seven outs while yielding only two baserunners.

Opponents are now 2-for-20 in at-bats ending with a Niese cutter this season.

Niese also lived on the fortunate side in this game. Cardinals hitters hit eight line drives, but the Mets turned five of them into outs, with three caught by center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Opponents are 12-for-22 when hitting a line drive against Niese this season. That sort of “success” is unlikely to last, given that they hit .735 and .728 on line drives against him the past two seasons.

But then again, the cold weather shouldn’t last either.

Morning Briefing: Home sweet home?

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

FIRST PITCH: The New York Mets are back at Citi Field on Friday night, after going 6-3 on their opening road trip of the season and enjoying an off day on Thursday.

They are above .500 for the first time since last April 24 (8-7), but must improve their play at home in order to remain relevant. The Mets were 41-40 on the road last season, but just 33-48 in Queens.

Jonathon Niese (0-1, 3.46) will make his third start of the season for New York. Aaron Harang (2-1, 0.96) is the scheduled starter for Atlanta. Harang had a brief stint with the Mets last September, going 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts.

The first-place Braves (10-5) have only lost one series this season -- to the Mets, who took two of three in Atlanta to begin that impressive road trip.

Friday's news reports:

Chris Young is expected to be activated and return to the Mets lineup on Friday. Young has played just one inning for the Mets this year, in the second game of the season, before landing on the disabled list with a quadriceps injury.

Curtis Granderson could also return to the lineup after suffering forearm, ribcage and knee bruises in a collision with the outfield wall in Arizona. And the Mets will have to make a corresponding roster move in order to activate Young, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Andrew Brown the two most likely candidates to be demoted.

Read more about Young's expected return in the Daily News.

• Granderson is batting just .167 this season, with one home run and four RBIs. But he is not worried about his slow start -- read more in the Record.

Eric Young Jr., on the other hand, is off to a rather good start. He is batting .255 overall, and went 6-for-12 with two walks in the series against the Diamondbacks. Better yet, he is second in the National League in both runs scored (12) and stolen bases (nine). Read more about Young Jr. in the Post and Newsday.

Josh Satin has gotten just 12 at-bats in the first 15 games of the season. He has just two hits (.167 average) and six strikeouts. Satin is one of the Mets' most confounding hitters, says the Star-Ledger.

• The Secret Service threatened to kill Mr. Met? Read more in the Daily News, Post and Star-Ledger.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear takes its time machine to the day Shea Stadium opened. ... Rising Apple suggests if the Mets want to contend, they have to make upgrades at shortstop and closer. ... Mark Berman at Blogging Mets uses baseball cards to chart the evolution of Mets uniforms.

BIRTHDAYS: Rico Brogna turns 44 today. ... Brady Clark is 41. ... Infielder Doug Flynn was born on this date in 1951.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU'RE UP: Who do you think the Mets should send down to Triple-A, in order to activate Chris Young?

Niese looks good, but takes the loss

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
NEW YORK -- If there is such a thing as a feel-good loss, that applies to Jonathon Niese's outing on Sunday.

Niese was on the hook for the New York Mets' 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. But he pitched well and pain-free, which could be considered a victory in itself.

In 5 2/3 innings, Niese gave up two runs on six hits -- all singles -- with four strikeouts and one walk.

[+] EnlargeJon Niese
Al Bello/Getty ImagesJon Niese's strong performance wasn't rewarded with a win Sunday.
"I felt good," Niese said. "It felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty well. Obviously didn’t have any pain. Unfortunately that last inning I thought I executed some pretty good pitches -- they're just a really good hitting ballclub. They just hit it where our guys weren’t."

Niese had shut down the Reds for five frames, allowing just a pair of singles. But he gave up three singles in a row to start the top of the sixth. Then Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick each drove a run home with a sacrifice fly and another single, respectively.

Manager Terry Collins took the ball from Niese with runners on second and third and two outs -- not because Niese was tired (he wasn't), but because he had reached his allotted pitch count for the day, 90.

"I thought he made some pretty good pitches -- the ball that Ludwick hit, he wanted to go upstairs on him and [Ludwick] just got the barrel on it," Collins said. "I thought Jon pitched an outstanding game. I was very, very impressed."

Niese was supposed to be the Mets' starter on Opening Day. Instead he opened the season on the disabled list after an abbreviated spring that included two trips to New York for MRIs on his left shoulder and elbow, plus a cortisone shot in the elbow to alleviate inflammation.

But he looked like the Niese of old on Sunday, with a fastball in the low 90s and an effective curveball.

"Once those two are working, he’s got a repertoire that’s gonna get a lot of people out," Collins said. "And today he got people out with it, we just didn’t give him any runs to work with."

That has been an early theme this season. Coming into Sunday's game, the Mets were tied for the major-league lead in quality starts with four in their first five games, yet were only 2-3.

Niese's outing was one out short of being the Mets' fifth quality start. But it was plenty good, considering the uncertainty about his health going in.

Now they just have to hope for more of the same.

"You really can’t duplicate pitching on a big-league mound in spring training," Niese said. "It’s a great feeling. It feels good to be back out there."

If not Niese ...

September, 25, 2013
CINCINNATI – Jonathon Niese still could start the Mets' regular-season finale Sunday against Milwaukee, but if manager Terry Collins chooses to go with another pitcher, that is likely to be Wednesday’s starter, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka.

“I’ll probably go with Daisuke,” Collins said before Wednesday’s game. “He’s one of those guys who loves to pitch. He could throw 125 pitches in a game and be ready to go three days later without being the worse for wear.”

Collins also expects third baseman David Wright to play in at least three of the four games against the Brewers and possibly all four after getting Wednesday off. Wright, on the disabled list from Aug. 3 through Sept. 19 with a strained right hamstring, has played in four of New York’s five games since being activated.

“He’s fine,” Collins said. “I’m sure he’s a little stiff. He’s done a lot of base-running. Getting your body rigid and ready to take off for 175 pitches can wear you down. I expect him to play three out of the next four. I’m not sure about all four.”

Collins hoped closer LaTroy Hawkins would be available for Wednesday’s game. Hawkins reported some soreness in his triceps on Tuesday, which is a symptom of fatigue, Collins said.

Niese gets win, wants one more start

September, 24, 2013
CINCINNATI -- If Jonathon Niese gets his way, he'll start the New York Mets' regular-season finale on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.

And if the left-hander feels as good as he felt Tuesday night, there's virtually no reason he shouldn't. Despite giving up hits to the first two batters and three of the first six he faced, Niese ended up allowing just two runs in seven innings in a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds.

[+] EnlargeJonathon Niese
David Kohl/USA TODAY SportsJonathon Niese started on Opening Day, and he may start Game 162 as well.
Juan Lagares helped Niese wiggle out of the first inning by throwing out Shin-Soo Choo at the plate -- Lagares' 13th outfield assist of the season, a record for Mets rookie outfielders. And then Niese retired the final eight batters he faced while evening his record at 8-8.

"Two pitches, two hits -- it was kind of crazy," said Niese, who mixed in a season-high 81 strikes among his 113 pitches, matching his second-highest total of the season. "Juan did a great job, and I was able to get out of the inning. It was all-around good defense."

Niese showed no signs of the partially torn rotator cuff that cost him seven weeks of the season from June into August.

"Ever since he came back, he's thrown as well as I've seen him since I've been here," manager Terry Collins said.

Well enough for him to take his regular turn on Sunday, or would Collins prefer to have Niese finish on Tuesday's high note?

"I don't know," Collins said. "He's got a chance to go 9-8. I'll talk to Jon in a couple of days and see how he feels."

Niese had no qualms about going out there one more time.

"I want to pitch," he said. "It's my turn, and I don't want to put another guy in an awkward position."

The series in Metrics (Mets vs. D-backs)

August, 12, 2013
Notes and nuggets from another road series win for the Mets, as they took two of three games from the Arizona Diamondbacks:

Wilmer Flores became the first player in Mets history to have at least one RBI in five of his first six major-league games.

He also became the second player this season to have a pair of three-RBI games within his first five career games, joining Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig.

Flores is one of eight players to have a streak of five straight games with an RBI within the first six games of his career. Only one of the other seven players is active -- Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Flores is the 383rd player in Mets history to hit a home run.

Zack Wheeler had the first walk-free outing of his career in earning his fifth win of the season on Saturday.

Niese did a nice job in three-ball counts, retiring four of the five hitters who got to a three-ball count against him. In his previous three starts, he’d gone to three balls on 11 hitters that he was not intentionally walking. Ten of those did end up walking.

The Mets' infield also did a nice job behind Wheeler, turning nine of the 11 ground balls he yielded into outs. Opponents are 8-for-66 (and have not reached via error) when hitting a ground ball against Wheeler this season.

Ike can do no wrong
Ike Davis was 3-for-5 with five walks in the series. He’s now 15-for-40 with 20 walks in his last 17 games.

Amazingly, Davis’ .583 on-base percentage is not the best in the majors in that span. He trails Jayson Werth and Mike Trout, each of whom are at .589.

Niese good enough
Jonathon Niese won the series finale despite allowing four runs in six innings.

If there were any concerns about Niese’s velocity, he held those off for now. His fastball averaged 89.8 mph, matching what it averaged this season, and peaked at 92 mph.

Niese had a good curveball, one that netted six outs without yielding a baserunner.

The walk-off
Paul Goldschmidt became the second Diamondbacks player to hit a walk-off homer against the Mets. The other was Steve Finley, who did so 10 years ago to the day against John Franco.

Useless stat of the series
Carlos Torres became the second pitcher in Mets history to pitch less than an inning, allow at least four baserunners, and not allow a run to score (either have his own guys score, or allow inherited runners to score). The other was Dennis Cook in 1998.

Niese to throw in game soon

July, 24, 2013
NEW YORK -- Lefty Jon Niese might pitch for the Gulf Coast League Mets this weekend, according to Mets manager Terry Collins. The manager added that Niese most likely will be back in a major league game no later than Aug. 1 as he works his way back from a partially torn rotator cuff.

Niese has been on the disabled list since June 21. Collins said Niese has been throwing bullpen sessions -- a progression from the long tossing he was recently performing. He will need to make several rehab starts before he can return to the Mets' rotation. Niese is 3-6 with a 4.32 ERA.

Carlos Torres has started in Niese's place in the rotation and has done a great job. As a starter, he's 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA spanning 11 innings, which includes Tuesday's winning effort of six innings of one-run ball against Atlanta.

More Mets notes:

WHEELER FINE: Thursday starter Zack Wheeler said he "feels great" as he deals with a blister on his right hand he developed in his last outing against the Phillies.

Wheeler, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Philadelphia, said the blister affected his pitches as well as his release point, and he hopes that it's healed heading into his seventh career start.

"It got bigger every inning I was going along," Wheeler said. "Something I've had before so nothing new."

Wheeler has been inconsistent thus far in his professional career, as he's struggled to put together back-to-back solid outings. He entered his last start off perhaps the best start of his career -- a seven-inning, one-run win over the Giants -- but labored against the Phillies. He's 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA.

"You're in the big leagues, you want consistency," Wheeler said. "You're a starting pitcher, you want consistency."

MEJIA EXCITED: Jenrry Mejia is ready to make his season debut in Friday's doubleheader against the Nationals. Collins said Mejia likely will start the first game and Matt Harvey will go in the nightcap.

"Very excited," Mejia said. "They told me yesterday [Tuesday] and I feel pretty happy about that."

Injuries have slowed down Mejia's career. Once of the most hyped prospects in the organization, he had Tommy John surgery in 2011, and spent time on the disabled list this year with elbow inflammation. He's pitched in six minor league games, going 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts with Double-A Binghamton.

"That's baseball," Mejia said. "You have to keep working hard and keep your head up, not down."

Mejia is 1-6 with a 4.91 ERA in his career, and went 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA for the Mets last year.

INJURY AND PLAYING TIME UPDATES: LaTroy Hawkins is not available tonight and will always be off after two straight days of work. ... Justin Turner will be in the lineup tomorrow, but Collins doesn't know yet if it will be at second or short. ... John Buck will catch Thursday. ... Collins said that lefty Pedro Feliciano "could be in the mix" for a bullpen spot. Feliciano was just promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. ... Collins said the report he's receiving on lefty Tim Byrdak is that he's feeling fine and his velocity is "pretty good." Byrdak, who has shoulder surgery last year, would also be in the mix if a spot in the bullpen were to open up.

Wright: 'Nobody's having any fun right now'

June, 15, 2013
Terry Collins AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIOn the bright side, Terry Collins liked the fire he saw from starter Jon Niese.
NEW YORK -- As he removed Jon Niese from Saturday's game, Terry Collins saw the fire and passion he wants from his team.

His starting pitcher didn't want to exit, preferring to stay in to throw one more pitch or face one more batter. That, Collins would say after the Mets lost 5-2 to the Cubs, is an example of what builds a winning club.

"Jon Niese didn't have his good stuff today. He battled through six innings. He didn't want to come out of the game. That's what I want," a fired-up Collins said. "I want guys who don't want to come out of the game. I want guys that say, 'I care enough, as much as you do, that I want to stay in the game.' We get more guys like that, we'll win more baseball games."

The Mets are searching to find a galvanizing force to turn this season around after losing for the 10th time in 12 games Saturday, falling to the Cubs at Citi Field. After their third straight loss, the Mets are a season-low 15 games under .500 and are on pace to lose 100 games.

"Guys need to dig down deep and go one of two ways," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "Either just go through the motions and play things out or get motivated by whatever means necessary and finish this thing strong. A lot of these guys are going to be part of the future."

Since sweeping the Yankees in May, the Mets have gone into a free fall. They've won just twice in June and have gone 0-7 against a pair of poor teams in Chicago and Miami. On Saturday, they couldn't get it done offensively, failing four times in the eighth and ninth with the tying run at the plate. They've scored just six runs in their past three games and just 37 in 11 games in June.

"You look up in the eighth inning, we have two stinking hits. Two!" Collins said. "Those are issues. Even our outs, as I've said before, once in a while you have to have some productive outs. Move people along. Try to get guys in scoring position. I know we're not driving in runs but still got to go up there with a game plan. 'Look, I'm going to get somebody over; I'm going to get somebody in.' We're not doing that."

Both Wright and Collins said they don't believe the team's issues stem from a lack of effort. Collins said he hasn't seen any player stop hustling or slack in his pregame routine. He worries, though, that losing is becoming too commonplace. Even Wright admitted these aren't the happiest of days in Flushing.

"These postgame questions, I'm starting to not have anything really new to say. It's a lot of the same issues, day after day, and that's something I say we have to correct because nobody's having any fun right now," Wright said. "It's not fun to come to the park and lose and lose in the fashion that we're losing."

Niese saves his best for Yankees

May, 27, 2013
He doesn't have a win to show for it, but Jonathon Niese pitched his best game of the season Monday night.

Niese limited the Yankees to just one run in seven innings of work, giving the Mets a chance to come from behind and earn a 2-1 victory at Citi Field in the opening game of the 2013 Subway Series.

[+] EnlargeJonathon Niese
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports Jonathon Niese pitched seven innings and only allowed one run against the Yankees.
Niese was the only Mets pitcher to beat the Yankees last season. His career ERA against the Yanks is now 2.05 over four starts.

"He gave up some hits, but he hung in there and got outs when he had to," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "He got us to where we needed to get, he didn’t let the game get out of control, and that allowed us to at least get a chance to tie it."

Niese did surrender eight hits on the night. But he worked out of jams in both the second and seventh innings, with multiple runners in scoring position each time. And the Yankees' lone run, in the sixth, was set up by a bloop triple by Brett Gardner that Lucas Duda dived for but just missed in left field.

Niese's record remained at 3-5, but his ERA dropped to 4.40. And over his past three starts, his ERA is 1.33 (just three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings).

"It’s just getting my arm angle up," Niese said, explaining his recent success. "I think [I'm] staying behind the baseball a lot more. It’s getting a lot better -- each bullpen it’s getting better and better. And obviously with that there’s a lot more confidence."

Once Johan Santana was lost for the season in spring training, the Mets' starting rotation suddenly looked very weak. But Collins thought he could at least count on two guys -- Niese and Matt Harvey -- to deliver solid outings on a regular basis.

But after starting out 2-0, Niese went more than a month without a victory before earning his third win against the Cardinals on May 16.

Niese didn't collect win No. 4 against the Yankees. But the Mets won the ballgame, and they may have that second reliable starting pitcher back in the fold.

The series in Metrics (Mets vs. Pirates)

May, 13, 2013
This was another rough one, as the Mets lost three straight at home to the Pirates in the same season for the first time since 2004. Here's a look at some of the more notable stats to come from the weekend:

Baxter … again
Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter became the first Mets player to get two walk-off hits in a three-day span since Mike Cameron did so against the Tigers in 2004. Others to do so were Jerry Buchek in 1967 and John Milner in 1973.

Both of Baxter’s walk-off RBIs were as a pinch-hitter. He’s one of a dozen different Mets pinch-hitters to have exactly a pair of walk-off RBIs. Three players had more -- Rusty Staub (5), Tim Teufel (3) and Chris Jones (3).

Baxter is now 16-for-33 with eight doubles and nine walks as a pinch-hitter in the last two seasons for the Mets. And remember he started that run 0-for-his-first-5 last year.

One oddity: The Mets have beaten the Pirates by walk-off pinch-hit RBI nine times—the most they’ve beaten any team in that fashion.

Niese initiated into Mets legend status ... sort of
Jonathon Niese became the first Mets pitcher to allow eight runs in a home appearance against the Pirates since Dwight Gooden gave up nine in a 1994 loss.

Niese is one of six Mets pitchers to allow eight runs or more at home against the Pirates. Two of the others on the list are Nolan Ryan (1968) and Tom Seaver (1974).

Niese also became one of 11 Mets pitchers to allow at least seven runs in an outing of less than five innings in consecutive appearances, the first to do so since Livan Hernandez in 2009. No Mets pitcher has ever had a run of three straight such appearances.

Niese’s mound counterpart, Francisco Liriano, finished with nine strikeouts and only one run allowed, the first Pirates pitcher to have that many whiffs and that few runs against the Mets since Jason Schmidt in 1997.

Niese's biggest issue is that his rate of getting hitters to a)chase pitches out of the strike zone and b)miss on their swings is sinking. His chase rate of seven percent (two chases on 28 pitches) matched his worst among the 100 appearances in the last five seasons for which we have data and was well below his 30 percent norm.

Niese coaxed only one missed swing, matching his career low. He typically averages eight per game, inducing them at a rate of about once for every five swings.

Harvey watch
The Mets shared a cool note: Harvey allowed five hits, giving him 69 allowed through 18 starts. That shattered the Mets record for fewest hits in the first 18 starts for a pitcher's career. The mark was not held by the likes of Tom Seaver or Dwight Gooden, but by John Pacella, who is best known for being the pitcher whose follow-through resulted in his cap flying off his head.

The funny thing is that Pacella comes up in another search involving Harvey.

Harvey's four straight no-decisions are two shy of the "record" for no-decisions by a Mets starter. The mark of six is shared by Pacella (1979-1980) and Rick Reed (2000).

Five notable Opening Day stats

April, 2, 2013
Opening Day produced a lot of statistics, some more meaningful than others. Let’s go through the ones we found particularly noteworthy.

1. Jonathon Niese had his cutter working
On a day where Niese didn’t have his best curveball (it yielded three hits, including a homer), he did have his best cutter.

Niese had as sharp a break on the pitch as he did at any point last season. He threw 16 of 20 for strikes and the pitch netted him eight outs, including a pair of important ones with two on in the third inning, and allowed only one baserunner (on a hit-by-pitch).

2. Collin Cowgill got hits against a right-handed hitter
Almost any time Terry Collins talked about Cowgill this spring, he referred to him as someone who was a good hitter ... against lefties.

But at the very end of spring, once he’d named Cowgill the everyday center fielder, Collins noted how good Cowgill looked against right-handed pitching.

Cowgill had two hits, a hustle double and the grand slam (Elias noted he became the third leadoff man with an Opening Day slam), both against righties.

That matched the number of extra-base hits he’d had against righties in his first 112 career at-bats against them.

3. David Wright stole two bases
The one part of Wright’s game that slipped last season was his basestealing.

Wright started 2012 0-for-3 in steal attempts and finished 15-for-25. His 60 percent success rate was worst among the 47 players with that many attempts.

This time, Wright got off on the right foot, becoming the third Met with two swipes in an opener (Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson), as he should have. The Padres allowed the second-most steals in the majors last season, 152.

4. Daniel Murphy had a happy birthday
We wanted to pick a stat that went overlooked and given the attention to the two-out hits, Ruben Tejada’s recovery from a rough spring, and Scott Rice’s successful debut we honed in on Murphy’s day.

Murphy barely played this spring, but looked smooth both at bat, with two hits, and in the field, handling six chances without a miscue.

Murphy took eight swings and made contact on every one.

But the stat we liked most was this one -- Murphy became the second Met to drive in a run in a season opener on his birthday. The other was Met Hall of Famer Gary Carter in 1986.

5. Ike Davis had a rough day
We’ll close this out with one negative.

The only Met not to get in on the fun was Davis, who went 0-for-5 and looked very much like the Davis who struggled in the early part of last season.

Davis took 14 swings and put only one of them into play (a grounder to second).

The Padres righties went after a flaw in Davis’ game, getting him out four of the five times on pitches on the inner-third of the plate or off the inside corner.

Last season Davis missed on 36 percent of his swings against pitches to that location from righties. His miss rate on pitches anywhere else from them was only 23 percent.

The series in Metrics (Mets vs. Braves)

October, 1, 2012
Getty Images/Al BelloJonathon Niese made nice improvements in 2012.

Jonathon Niese completed his finest major-league season by allowing one run in seven innings in Friday’s win.

Niese closed with a 2.57 ERA over 66 2/3 innings in his last 10 starts, with his biggest improvement being his drop in home runs allowed.

Niese allowed only five home runs in those 66 2/3 innings after allowing 17 in his first 123 2/3 innings.

Niese finished the season with a dozen starts in which he allowed one run or fewer in six innings or more. Entering Sunday, that rated tied for fifth-best in the NL, and was two more than the pitcher he beat on Friday, Tim Hudson.

Niese struck out and walked hitters at roughly the same rate that he did last season and actually allowed more home runs than he did in 2011.

The big improvement was that his opponents’ batting average on balls in play dropped from .333 to .272.

You may remember that we wrote about how Niese fared poorly last season on fly balls and popups that our hit-classification system categorized as “soft or medium hit.”

The chart on the right shows the difference for Niese from last season to this season. Though the Mets defense left a lot to be desired this season, it aided Niese significantly better in this area than it did in 2011.,

One last note on Niese: He finished with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3-to-1 for the second time in his career. He’s the ninth pitcher in Mets history with multiple seasons of at least 100 innings and a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate.

The others are: Tom Seaver (6), Rick Reed (4), Dwight Gooden (4), Bret Saberhagen (3), Johan Santana (2), Pedro Martinez (2), Glendon Rusch (2) and David Cone (2).

Another mark for Wright
Wright recorded his 175th hit of the season on Saturday, the fifth time in his career that he’s reached that total. He’s tied for the most such seasons in Mets history with Jose Reyes, who had five from 2005 to 2011.

40 for Murphy
Daniel Murphy hit his 40th double of the season. He’s the third Met whose primary position was second base to hit 40 doubles in a season, joining Gregg Jefferies (1990) and Edgardo Alfonzo (1999 and 2000).

The final tally on Chipper
Jones went 0-for-4 in consecutive games to start the series.
It marked the second time in Jones’ career that he had back to back 0-for-4 or worse games in the same regular-season series against the Mets. The other instance was in 2005.

Jones went 1-for-10 in the series. He went homerless in the series and finished without a home run in his final 10 games against the Mets, leaving him with 49. That's tied with Mike Schmidt for second-most. Willie Stargell is the all-time leader with 60.

It marked the first time since the end of 2004/start of 2005 that the Mets held Jones homerless for a stretch of at least 10 games.



Daniel Murphy
.295 9 54 75
HRL. Duda 27
RBIL. Duda 83
RD. Murphy 75
OPSL. Duda .827
WB. Colon 14
ERAJ. Niese 3.55
SOZ. Wheeler 173