New York Mets: Jon Niese

NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: Jonathon Niese makes his first start of the season on Sunday, as the Mets go for a sweep of the Reds and try to climb back to .500 at 3-3.

Niese was supposed to start on Opening Day, but was pushed back after receiving a cortisone shot because of inflammation in his left elbow.

Alfredo Simon will get the ball for Cincinnati, making his first start since 2011, when he was a member of the Orioles. He has spent the past two seasons as a reliever for the Reds, going 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 2013.

The Mets haven't swept the Reds in New York since 2005 at Shea Stadium.

Sunday's news reports

Ike Davis only got one at-bat on Saturday, but he made it count. Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded and the Mets trailing 3-2, Davis hit a walkoff grand slam to give the Mets a 6-3 victory.

Read game recaps in the Daily News, Post, Times, Newsday, Record and MLB.com.

• Davis will start Sunday, but Lucas Duda is still the regular starting first baseman, at least for now. Nevertheless, Saturday's homer was big for Davis, and his teammates were very happy for him, writes Kevin Kernan in the Post.

• With Mark Teixeira on the shelf again, the Yankees could use some help at first base. Maybe Davis should switch boroughs, write Anthony Rieber in Newsday.

• Manager Terry Collins won his first instant replay challenge on Sunday, and it helped set up Davis' game-winning slam. Read more in the Daily News, Newsday, Record and MLB.com.

Dillon Gee was bailed out by Davis and company, and instead picked up his second no-decision in two starts this season. Read more in the Daily News.

• The Mets aren't drawing big crowds on this opening homestand, but it's not just because of the team's lack of spending in the offseason. It's also because of the high prices at Citi Field, writes Ken Davidoff in the Post.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear heartily endorses replay review and Ike Davis, provided they function as flawlessly as they did Saturday. ... Mark Berman at Blogging Mets wonders when the Mets learned how to hit home runs.

BIRTHDAYS: St. Lucie Mets pitching coach Phil Regan turns 77. ... Former infielder Andy Phillips is 37.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU'RE UP: What kind of performance do you expect from Niese on Sunday?

W2W4: Mets at Reds (Tuesday)

July, 26, 2011
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Jonathon Niese Stat To Watch
The Niese-Joey Votto matchup could be an interesting one. Niese has had an odd month in terms of his performance against left-handed hitters. Lefties are 11-for-29 in July against Niese (.379 BA) after hitting .206 against him in the first three months of the season.

The primary damage has been done against both his cutter (five hits) and his curveball (five hits). Niese entered the month having only given up three hits on his curveball to lefties all season. But he yielded two apiece to the Giants and most recently the Cardinals (Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay) in the last two-and-a-half weeks.

Johnny Cueto Stat To Watch
Cueto has allowed three runs in six of his 14 starts this season, but has not allowed more than that in any contest.

Cueto hasn’t fared well against the Mets, allowing 19 runs in 21 career innings against them, but has done alright against Jose Reyes. He’s retired Reyes eight straight times, three by strikeout, since allowing a hit to him in his last meeting.

Cueto Timing May be Just Wright
After getting opposite-field hits on a pair of fastballs in his season debut against the Marlins, five of David Wright’s next six hits have come against changeups (three) or sliders (two).

Cueto throws both, with the slider being his primary strikeout pitch for much of the season. However, after striking out nine hitters with it in his final two starts of June, Cueto has only fanned two via the slider in July.

His putaway rate with the pitch this month is just six percent, meaning only six percent of his two-strike sliders have resulted in a strikeout. It was 23 percent in May and June.

Wright has seen five two-strike sliders since returning but has not yet struck out against one.

Carlos Beltran may be due
Beltran hit five home runs in his first 61 career at-bats at Great American Ball Park. He’s homerless in his last 36 at-bats there, his last coming on Sept. 4, 2007 against Matt Belisle.

Potential test for Isringhausen
Should the Mets need Jason Isringhausen to close, it would be only the second time in the last six weeks that he’ll have pitched on back-to-back days. Isringhausen seems to have found a second wind. He’s struck out at least one batter in each of his last five appearances, totaling nine in six innings, after going five straight appearances without recording a strikeout.

Will Niese's nice run continue?

June, 19, 2011
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Left-hander Jonathon Niese has three wins in his last four starts.
How often have Mets' starters tossed back-to-back complete games while allowing one earned run or less?

Not often at all.

In fact, it's happened just twice in the last 10 seasons.

Can they make it three times on Sunday?

With the way Jonathon Niese has been pitching lately, it certainly seems possible.

Niese has been phenomenal in his last four starts, going 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA. He'll look to keep it going in his Sunday start against the Angels, a night after Mike Pelfrey held Los Angeles to one run in a complete-game win.

The key to Niese's recent success, according to Terry Collins, has been his curveball.

But Niese believes all of his pitches -- cutter, fastball, changeup -- have contributed.

"I feel confident right now," said Niese, who has five wins in his last seven starts. "All in all I feel comfortable."

Which has made opposing hitters increasingly uncomfortable.

Niese is setting career-lows in opponent batting average (.249) and WHIP (1.31) this season. He is averaging seven strike outs per nine innings and his home runs allowed -- which were an issue last season -- are down to 0.71.

"He’s starting to have confidence in his stuff. Early in the season, I really felt that he relied on his fastball a lot of the time," Collins said of Niese's 1-4 April.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said that Niese (6-5, 3.46 ERA) has thrown his curveball with a greater frequency in recent starts. He added that Niese no longer telegraphs the curve with his arm angle, which was an issue early in his career.

According to the pitching coach, Niese has thrown his curve for strikes roughly 70 percent of the time this season.

"I think that’s what’s really helped him get it going the last few starts," Collins said.

Against the Brewers on June 9, Niese's off-speed stuff was on point. The lefty allowed three hits and one run in 7 2/3 innings. Collins said it was "about as good as you can pitch."

To keep things rolling, Niese will try to keep it simple on Sunday.

Which means keeping Angels hitters uncomfortable with his curveball.

"If it's executed well, I think it’s a tough pitch to hit," Niese said of the curve. "Right now, it’s pretty good."

Ethier faces multi-Mets challenges

May, 6, 2011
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The heat map above shows Andre Ethier’s “hot” and “cold” zones against left-handed pitching since 2009. The red areas are his “hot” zones. The blue are his “cold” zones.
The last time a Dodger brought as long a hitting streak as Ethier's into a meeting with the Mets, an ESPN baseball analyst named Bobby Valentine was making his big league debut.

Willie Davis was able to extend his hitting streak to a club-record 30 games in a meeting with the Mets on Sept. 2, 1969. But later in the game, after a call of “In comes Valentine!” from Dodgers radio voice Vin Scully on a two-run single by Andy Kosco, Mets reliever Tug McGraw struck Davis out with the tying run on third base to end a 5-4 Mets victory, one of many amazing wins for the eventual champs. Davis upped his streak to 31 the next day, a number that still stands as the Dodgers' top mark.

Ethier will get a chance to better Davis at Citi Field, with Jon Niese the first moundsman in his way.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ethier will be the fifth hitter to bring a hit streak of 29 or more games into a meeting with the Mets, along with Davis, Pete Rose, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Rose was able to set the NL record for a hitting streak by hitting in his 37th, 38th and 39th straight games against the Mets in 1978. (The streak would stretch to 44 games before ending.)

Rollins reached 33 games with hits in three straight games against the Mets late in 2005. The one hitter the Mets stymied was his teammate, Utley, who had his 35-gamer snuffed on Aug. 4, 2006 by Orlando Hernandez, Darren Oliver and Pedro Feliciano.

Ethier will have to defy his history against the Mets. His. 147 batting average is the third-worst of any position player with 100 at-bats against them, trailing Jerry Turner (.129) and Clint Barmes (.140).

Let’s take a closer look at the potential matchups that could come between Ethier and history this weekend, presuming he’s healed enough from his elbow injury to play.

Friday vs Jon Niese
Never faced


Ethier is 8-for-35 against left-handed pitching this season, a .229 batting average that is 200 points below what he is currently hitting against right-handed pitching. Keep in mind he went hitless in his first 11 at-bats of the season against lefties. Since then, he is 8-for-24 against southpaws, his most recent hit being an infield single against James Russell that pushed the streak to 29.

There are significant differences in how Ethier hits right-handers, compared with how he fares against lefties for his career. He is a .312 career hitter against righties, averaging a homer every 22 at-bats. Against lefties, he is hitting .246 (.214 since 2009), with a homer every 49 at-bats.

Ethier’s biggest issue against lefties is his propensity for swings and misses. Since 2009, he is missing on one out of every four swings against a left-handed pitcher, compared with one of every six swings against righties.

At the top of this piece is a heat map, which shows Ethier’s performance when he puts the ball in play against a lefty. He has two vulnerable spots -- the blue shaded areas that are up-and-in and down-and-away.

The one area in which he is working from a position of strength is the red-shaded area, down and in. Closer examination of the pitch-type data from video review shows most of Ethier’s hits come against fastballs to that area.

Comparatively speaking, Niese is a much easier target for Ethier than most left-handed pitchers because he is not someone who generates a lot of swings and misses.

Lefty hitters are hitting .286 in 217 at-bats against Niese for his career (11-for-40 in 2011). That is among the worst for any active lefty pitcher who has faced at least 200 lefties.

Saturday vs Chris Young
.414 BA, 6 HR in 29 AB


If Ethier can get to Saturday with his hitting streak intact, he is probably going to be feeling pretty good heading into that day’s matchup. His numbers, particularly his power numbers, against Mets starter Chris Young are amazing.

Whether that is enough of a sample size to predict future performance is a discussion for another time. The history available says Ethier should feel confident. He has six home runs against Young, against whom he is hitting .414 in 29 at-bats. There is no other pitcher against whom he has more than two homers. Their last meeting was June 9, 2009, a game in which Ethier had deep shots three times against the then-Padre. Two of the fly balls left the ballpark. The other was well-struck but caught in center field.

“He seems to punish me,” Young told the media after that game.

Most left-handers do not hit Young with the same rate of success that Ethier does. Lefty hitters are hitting just .223 against Young in a career sampling of 1,420 at-bats. The only active starting right-handed pitchers with better success against lefty hitters are Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy (.218) and Giants ace Tim Lincecum (.222).

Left-handed hitters are 5-for-48 with 16 strikeouts against Young this season -- a .104 opponent batting average. The Phillies loaded their lineup with batters who hit left-handed against Young on Sunday Night Baseball last weekend, but they were a combined 1-for-17, with 0-fors from, among others, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard.

Sunday vs R.A. Dickey
.500 BA, 2 AB


If Ethier survives to Sunday, he will see a pitch with which he has not had a lot of familiarity during the last two seasons -- the knuckleball.

Dickey and Ethier met last July 25, and it was a fastball on which Ethier got one of the two hits the Dodgers mustered that day through 5 2/3 innings facing him. In Ethier’s other turn, a Dickey knuckleball yielded a groundball double play.

According to our video review data, Ethier has seen 15 knuckleballs since the start of the 2009 season. He has swung at 10 of those pitches, missing four of them (including once when he was struck out by Tim Wakefield) and putting five into play.

Whoever figures to be the Mets' second baseman on Sunday should come prepared. Of the five times Ethier has put a knuckler into play, four of those balls have been hit right to the spot where a second baseman would normally play. His next hit against a knuckleball will be his first since 2009.

2010's significant developMets (Part II)

October, 14, 2010
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AP Photo
There were moments of both jubilation and despair for the 2010 Mets pitching staff.

As we mentioned in our last piece, The Year of the Pitcher took on special meaning for the Mets this season, as with their offense struggling, the team’s outcome often hung on the staff that took the mound daily with the pressure of knowing they’d need to perform well to give the team a reasonable chance to win.

Some thrived and starred in the spotlight, while others struggled and became symbols of the frustration Mets fans felt with the failures that have befallen this team. Here’s a closer look at what developed on the field for this year’s moundsmen.

If only every game were a home game

The Mets put up some impressive numbers at Citi Field in 2010, tying a club mark previously set in 1988 with 16 shutouts. They cut their home runs allowed at home from 81 in 2009 to 47 in 2010 (the fewest they've yielded since '88), and their 3.07 ERA was the best they've had at home since 1990.

But the Mets road struggles were largely due to the inability of the pitching staff to replicate that performance in other ballparks. They had the third-biggest split in baseball between their home and road ERA (home: 3.07, road 4.35), and the fourth-largest difference in batting average. Their 88 road home runs allowed ranked third-most in the National League.

Late-inning performance on the road was a huge issue, particularly for the Mets bullpen. Opponents had a .222 batting average and .636 OPS in the seventh inning or later at Citi Field, and a split of .270/.760 elsewhere (both significantly worse than the big league average). That led to a lot of heartbreaking defeats. The Mets 20 one-run losses on the road tied for most in the majors.

The way it most often for the Mets on the road was like this –- win one, lose two. They went 1-2 overall in eight different opposing ballparks this season. Pitching was largely to blame. Their combined ERA in those venues was 5.14.

Two out of three ain’t bad in some cases, but in this one, it was part of what made the Mets mediocre.

Mike Pelfrey pitched well, but ...

The pitcher who benefited most from Citi Field was Mike Pelfrey, who finished with a 2.83 ERA there, a 4.95 ERA elsewhere.

That's nothing new. Pelfrey has pitched at the level of a No. 2 starter at home over the last three seasons, but his road performance has been unimpressive

This was the third straight season in which Pelfrey posted a road ERA of 4.00 or worse and an opponents batting average of .300 or higher. No other Mets pitcher who threw at least 80 innings has more than one such season of that combination.

Some may point to Pelfrey's road BABIP (batting average on balls in play), a .342 and say that Pelfrey must have been unlucky. I don't think so.

His road BABIP the last three seasons has been .344, .326, and .342. That tells me that we see in these games is what Pelfrey is. He may be a little better than someone with a 4.95 road ERA (his road xFIP, an ERA equivalent based on walks, strikeouts, and fly ball rate, was almost the same as his home xFIP, 4.48), but not much. He’s not necessarily ready to be a No. 1 starter just yet.

A second ace

Save for a few innings, Johan Santana performed according to expectations this season. R.A. Dickey may have exceeded them as much as any pitcher in Mets history.


The performance of Santana and Dickey marked only the fifth time in Mets history that they had a pair of pitchers qualify for the ERA title, whose ERA, adjusted for primary ballpark pitched in (also known as ERA+) was 30 percent better than the league average, the first since the 2000 NL champs (Mike Hampton and Al Leiter).

Dickey finally found the right touch on his knuckleball, but part of his success this season was his ability to throw off hitters timing by mixing in the occasional 84-mile-per-hour fastball.

Yes, opponents hit .350 against Dickey’s heat, according to our Inside Edge video data, but that’s a little misleading. According to Fangraphs, Dickey’s fastball had a value of 5.9 runs better than the major league average.

That tells us that when the pitch wasn’t hit, the value it had of putting Dickey in a better position to get outs outweighed the damage done by any hits he may have allowed.

Jonathon Niese has a secret weapon

Jonathon Niese did something that no Met has ever done. He's the first pitcher in Mets history to qualify for the ERA title (usually a minimum of 162 innings) and not allow a stolen base.
Johan Santana came pretty close in 2009, allowing only one steal, but Niese bettered that.

Four baserunners attempted a steal on Niese in 2010 -- Austin Jackson, Nyjer Morgan, Joey Votto, and Rusty Ryal. None succeeded.

The last pitcher to throw more innings than Niese's 173 2/3 and not allow a stolen base was Jarrod Washburn for the 2005 Angels.

That’s something in which Niese can take pride. There’s also something for him to work on, most notably maintaining his performance over an entire season.

Those who were concerned with Niese’s fatigue level may point to this set of stats. Prior to the All-Star Break, when Niese tried to finish a hitter with a two-strike fastball, opponents had a .276 on-base percentage and .619 OPS, numbers not far off from the major league average.

But after the All-Star Break, his two-strike fastballs lacked the same zip. Opponents posted a .372 on-base percentage and an .825 OPS.

It was a year of quirks

My Stats and Info colleague Doug Kern got all excited watching Oliver Perez gak up the regular season finale.

Perez's loss made him 0-5, as Kern noted the second-worst winless record by a Met, trailing only John Franco's 0-8 in 1998.

The Mets actually had a pretty good "loser group" in 2010. Three pitchers -- Perez, Jenrry Mejia and Pat Misch all went 0-4 or worse. It's the first time the Mets ever had multiple pitchers go 0-4 or worse in the same season and the sixth time a team has had three such pitchers in major league history.

And if you want any more proof that Perez is in the midst of one of the worst two-year runs in major league history, he became the third pitcher ever to post consecutive seasons with an ERA of 6.80 or worse and a WHIP of 1.9 or worse, the first since the immortal Jim Walkup for the 1938-39 St. Louis Browns.

Also of note from the quirky stat pile:

• The last word on the whole 12 grand slams allowed debacle ... The Mets nine grand slams allowed ON THE ROAD are the second-worst by a team over the last 55 years, trailing the 2006 Orioles, who had 11.

• Middle reliever Elmer Dessens managed a 2.30 ERA despite striking out only 3.06 batters per nine innings. That's VERY hard to do. The three other pitchers who averaged less than 3.5 K per 9 in 2010 (Eddie Bonine, Justin Berg, and Jesse Litsch) had a combined ERA of 5.12.

Only two other pitchers in Mets history have posted ERA's as low as Dessens, while striking out fewer batters per nine than him -- Ken Sanders in 1975 and the oft-booed Doug Sisk in 1983.

• Lastly, Hisanori Takahashi's season was full of statistical oddities, in a good way.

He's the first Mets pitcher to have at least eight saves and 10 starts since Anthony Young (he of the 27-game losing streak) in 1992. But so we can end this piece on a good note, let's invoke a more positive season. Takahashi also became the first Met with at least 10 wins and eight saves since Roger McDowell in 1986.

Mets score 18 runs, and yes, they win!

September, 5, 2010
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There's a famous story from the early days of Mets baseball, in which a fan called a local newspaper and asked whether the Mets had won. The person answering the call replied that the Mets had scored 19 runs that day.

Then comes the famous punchline, courtesy of the man making the inquiry.

"But did they win?"

The Mets did in fact win on May 26, 1964, 19-1, over the Cubs, the same Cubs who the offensively-challenged Mets drubbed, 18-5 on Sunday.

The Mets set a club record in that 19-1 game, with 12 hits with runners in scoring position. They broke that mark with a lucky 13 on Sunday.

It's games like these from which we can draw upon some particularly interesting notes, with the help of resources from Baseball-Reference.com, Stats LLC, and the Elias Sports Bureau, the latter of whom verified the nugget above. Others we culled include:

• The Mets have now had seven games in which they've scored at least 18 runs -- all of which have taken place on the road. Four of those have come not only against the Cubs, but in Wrigley Field.

• This was the fourth time in a nine-inning game that the Mets had at least 30 baserunners (they finished with 31), the first since a club record 34 reached in a 19-8 win at Wrigley Field on June 12, 1990.

• It's the third time in Mets history that they had a game with at least 21 hits and nine walks. The other two were the crazy 19-inning, 16-13 win over the Braves on July 4 1985 and the 19-8 win against the Cubs in 1990, mentioned in the preceding note.

• One last note on that 1990 game. It's the only game in Mets history besides the one on Sunday in which the Mets scored at least 18 runs, and every run came via an RBI. The other five instances of the Mets scoring 18+, somewhere along the way, they were aided by an opponents error.

• The Mets tied a season-high for any major league team by recording 13 hits with runners in scoring position. The other team to do that: The Astros against the Cardinals on August 3.

• Also according to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time in Mets history that they scored five or more runs in three different innings of the same game. It was also the first time they had consecutive five run innings since April 23, 2000, also against the Cubs.

• The Mets hadn't scored double figures since netting 14 runs against the Tigers on June 22. Since that game, they were averaging 3.3 runs per game and hitting .233, prior to Sunday.

• The Mets played this game without 3/4 of their regular infield, using Mike Hessman at third base, Ruben Tejada at shortstop, and Luis Hernandez at second base. Hessman played in a game in which his team scored 18 runs before-- against the Mets. He appeared as a pinch-hitter on April 7, 2004.

• Tejada became the sixth shortstop in Mets history to drive in at least five runs in a game, the first since Kazuo Matsui in 2004. The others: Jerry Buchek (1967), Howard Johnson (1990), Dick Schofield (1992) and Jose Reyes (2003). Tejada is the fourth No. 8 hitter with a 5+ RBI game against an NL opponent for the Mets , joining Schofield, Ramon Castro (2005) and Paul Lo Duca (2007).

Luis Hernandez became the second player in Mets history to record seven at-bats in a nine-inning game. The other was Lenny Dykstra in a 23-10 win against the Cubs in 1987.

• Jonathon Niese got 18 runs of offensive support. In his previous five starts, Niese had gotten a total of 16 runs of support. Niese helped himself with two RBI, joining R.A. Dickey as the only Mets pitchers with a multi-RBI game this season. He's the first Mets pitcher with a multi-RBI game against the Cubs since Rick Reed in 1998.

One-hit wonders

August, 18, 2010
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Getty Images
Shawn Estes (left), Tom Seaver (middle), and R.A. Dickey (right) are among those in Mets history who have flirted with a no-hitter, but had to settle for the next-best thing, a one-hitter.


“A Single in First Spoils No-Hitter” read the New York Times headline on June 23, 1962, the day after Al Jackson pitched the Mets first one-hitter against the Colt 45’s (now known as the Astros), allowing nothing after Joe Amalfitano’s single in the first game of a doubleheader.

That headline writer must have known something was in the fates that deemed that we’d still be talking about how the Mets have never thrown a no-hitter, 48 years later.

R.A. Dickey, pitching tonight against the Astros, was the latest tease—throwing the Mets 35th one-hitter, a Cole Hamels single away from history, against the Phillies last Friday. Mets fans don’t have much to celebrate these days (fans of other teams have celebrated 125 no-hitters since 1962), so it seems worthwhile to enjoy what are the best of the near-bests at this time.

In our attempt to be the “Ulti’met” team historian, we’ve armed ourselves with newspaper reports and internet accounts of all 35 games, supplemented those with a few audio and video tape airings, and studied up on the subject, in an effort to offer the most comprehensive descriptions and accounts possible. Follow along carefully -- there’s a lot to detail.

First we must tell how the Mets would lose the second game of Jackson’s doubleheader, 16-3, and something would happen in that one that hasn’t happened in any game since. The baseball gods must have been laughing as Colts pitcher Jim Golden tripled twice in the rout (Golden was golden; he’d go 5-0 against the 120-loss Mets).

Since 1962 -- Pitcher multi-triple games: 1, Mets no-hitters: 0.

The no-no is still verboten in Metville to this day.

Speaking of pitcher’s hitting, four have been responsible for the only hit of a Mets one-hitter, most recently Hamels last Friday. The first of those moundsmen, Ray Sadecki would later pitch for the Mets. He’d bust Jack Hamilton’s bid with a third-inning 20-foot bunt single along the third base line, perhaps the shortest hit in all the Mets one-hitters.

Ah, the bunt hit, forbidden by the unwritten rules of some from busting no-hitters, but welcomed early in the game when the thought of a no-hitter is not on anyone’s mind, save for obsessive Mets fans like Dirk Lammers, who runs the website Nonohitters.com, which tracks Mets no-hit bids game-by game, sending alerts via Twitter when an opponent gets the first hit of the game.

Sometimes that doesn't take long. Trot Nixon of the Red Sox got a bunt hit in the first inning on July 15, 2001, the day of Bobby Valentine’s 1,000th major league managerial victory, a combined one-hitter for Glendon Rusch and Armando Benitez.

The lone hit was a push bunt between the mound and first base, one fielded by Lenny Harris, whose throw to covering second basemen Edgardo Alfonzo was late. It’s a history mystery what might have happened had Rusch fielded the ball (he said afterwards he should have), but alas this no-hit bid turned out to be the 22nd one-hitter in team annals.

“I loved Glendon because of the attitude he brought to the park,” Valentine said recently. “I wish he could have pitched for me every day. He was the perfect choice for my 1,000th win.”

Just not perfect enough for a no-hitter.

Nor was Bobby Jones one-hit shutout of the Giants in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. Jones’ wife Kristi told Valentine that her husband would pitch “the game of his life” that day. He did, and were it not for a fifth-inning line drive from Jeff Kent that just got over the glove of leaping third baseman Robin Ventura, it could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been a no-hitter.

“I wish Robin was 7-foot-4, so he could have caught it,” Jones said a few years later. “But he saved me many a time.”

Joe Morgan, announcing the game for ESPN said after Jones got the final out : “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game pitched this well, other than a perfect game.”

Others might beg to differ.

The Mets pitcher to come closest to a perfect game was Tom Seaver, whose bid lasted 8 1/3 innings on July 9, 1969, broken by a clean single to center from Cubs centerfielder Jimmy Qualls. When Qualls reached first base, who was there to greet him but Cubs coach Joey Amalfitano -- the same guy who had the only hit in Al Jackson's one-hitter in 1962.

Seaver would describe Qualls in his post-game press conference as “a sticky little hitter.” That also seems an apt name for David Eckstein, who had the only hit in the first of two Steve Trachsel one-hitters as a Met, this one featuring the fewest strikeouts (one) against the Angels in 2003.

Trachsel's other Mets close call was broken up by someone with the fewest career hits of anyone to have the only hit in a Mets one-hitter: Rockies starter Chun-hui Tsao (the first of two career hits) in the sixth inning of a game in 2003.

Seaver’s five one-hitters are the most in Mets history. His second was a 15-strikeout effort against the Phillies on May 15, 1970 that scores highest in Bill James Game Score metric (a 98) of any of the 198 games Seaver won as a Met.

It was the second time in a month that the Phillies fell victim to a 15 strikeout one-hitter, part of a two-year streak in which the Mets shut them out five times in a row (the 2010 squad would be envious). Nolan Ryan had the other, his best performance as a Met prior to being traded, beating future Hall of Famer (and past perfect-game vs the Mets-tosser) Jim Bunning.

It was also the second time in three days that the Mets came that close to a no-hitter. Gary Gentry pitched a one-hitter against the Cubs two days prior.

Hall of Famer Ernie Banks lined an eighth-inning single to left field, which may have been caught by left fielder Dave Marshall had wet grass not caused him to slip in his initial pursuit.

“I thought it would be caught,” Banks, who’d hit his 500th homer the day before, told the media after the game, but Marshall was only able to nick the ball with his glove before it dropped in.

THAT one was close. So was Dwight Gooden’s against the Cubs at Shea on September 7, 1984. Gooden had told Valentine, then the club’s third base coach, that he’d no-hit the Cubs someday. Had third baseman Ray Knight been able to get Keith Moreland’s slow roller in the fifth inning out of his glove, he might’ve kept Gooden’s bid intact. Instead, there was no grip, no throw, and no no-no.

The glory days passed Gooden by, but for the Mets one-hitter, the best of times were the early 1970s, with the team netting eight of the 80 thrown in the majors from 1970 to 1974, and the 2000s, in which they had at least one one-hitter from 2000 to 2008.

Seaver and Gary Gentry each tossed one against the world-champion Pirates in 1971, the latter broken up by Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s sixth-inning triple. Seaver would throw another vs the Padres on July 4, 1972. Leron Lee, father of Derrek, snapped that one with San Diego's only hit with one out in the ninth inning.

Seaver also had the Mets longest no-hit bid, against the Cubs in 1975 (halted by a Joe Wallis single with two outs in the ninth) but that doesn’t make the list because the game would go extra-innings and the Mets would lose 1-0, the victims of four hits and a game-ending bases-loaded walk.

The last of Seaver's Mets one-hitters came against the Cubs on April 17, 1977. In the fifth inning, Mets catcher John Stearns thought Seaver had Cubs third baseman Steve Ontiveros struck out, but umpire Andy Olsen called the pitch a ball. On 3-2, Ontiveros hit a bloop to right field, for which Ed Kranepool dove, but missed by inches.

Seaver would get his no-hitter on June 16, 1978 -- a year and a day after being traded to the Reds. And we should note that in his last appearance for the Mets, he allowed no hits -- albeit in one inning pitched on the next-to-last day of the 1983 season.

Was one of Seaver’s games the best Mets-pitched one-hitter?

The combo from John Maine (7 2/3 innings), Willie Collazo and Carlos Muniz against the Marlins on September 29, 2007 (the day before Tom Glavine gakked up the season), featured 14 strikeouts from Maine, and only a dink infield hit from Marlins catcher Paul Hoover. That one makes the most reasonable case among the most recent efforts.

Dickey's wasn't even the best this season. Jonathon Niese joined Seaver with the only one-baserunner, one-hitter earlier in the year against the Padres.

Niese and Dickey both make the list of unlikely one-hitter throwers, joining submariner Terry Leach, who threw a 10-inning one-hitter against the Phillies (ex-Mets coach Luis Aguayo had the only hit) in his second major league start on October 1, 1982, and not-so-well-liked Aaron Heilman, whose no-no attempt against the 2005 Marlins was broken up by an infield hit by current not-so-liked Met, Luis Castillo.

---

We break up this story on one-hitters to tell you that:

• The most Mets wins without a one-hitter: Jerry Koosman, 140

• The Mets have one-hit a soon-to-be World Series champ three times. We mentioned the two against the 1971 Pirates. The other -- a Jae Seo, David Weathers, Armando Benitez team effort against the 2003 Marlins, just before the beginning of a run in which the Marlins went 57-33 and won the wild card.

• Seven times, more than one pitcher has been required to complete a Mets one hitter. Current Mets analyst Ron Darling and Jesse Orosco paired on the first of those-- against the Pirates on April 17, 1985. The Mets enlisted the assistance of first baseman Keith Hernandez in that one-- his ninth-inning sac fly brought in the winning run.

• The Padres, who also have never thrown a no-hitter, have 24 one-hitters, including four against the Mets (one in each of four straight seasons from 1991 to 1994). The face of the Padres franchise, Tony Gwynn was the final out of a no-hitter by the Braves in 1991, but avoided any dubious distinction with a fourth-inning double, the only hit in a David Cone one-hitter for the Mets in 1988.

• This isn't the only thing the Mets haven't done. What's more likely to come first: A Mets no-hitter, or a Mets hitter homering three times in a game AT HOME? Neither has ever happened.

---

Seaver and Ryan are the two Mets who have pitched a one-hitter who are in the Hall of Fame, likely to be joined eventually by Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, who gets partial credit for lasting four innings in a one-hitter against the Rockies on July 12, 2008 (four relievers finished the deal).

We’ll give an honorable mention to Shawn Estes, recently inducted into the Giants Wall of Fame. Estes threw a one-hitter for the Mets against the Brewers on April 26, 2002, beating the last Met to combine on one, Glendon Rusch, 1-0.

This bid was broken up by future ESPN baseball analyst Eric Young’s seventh-inning single. That’s not surprising given that Young hit .417 against Estes in the 36 at-bats in which they went head-to-head, though Estes got the last laugh by getting Young for the game’s final out.

Estes couldn’t win enough (his four wins as a Met are fewest among the one-hitter tossers), and the Mets don’t always win one-hitters. They’re 33-2 when they throw one, losing most recently to the Astros in 2006.

Cone and Jeff Innis lost their combined one-hitter to the Cardinals on September 14, 1991, but Cone would come back with a winning one-hitter against St. Louis in his next start (the only hit being a Felix Jose double to the warning track in left-center in the eighth inning).

“I wanted to treat these fans to something special,” Cone told reporters afterwards.

Those 1991 Mets would tease fans by throwing three one-hitters in an 11-day span near season's end (Pete Schourek had the other against the Expos, broken up by current White Sox GM Ken Williams), but couldn’t save the job of their skipper, Bud Harrelson, who would be fired a little more than a week later.

Harrelson held the Mets record for most one-hitters played in (of at least nine innings), with eight, until this year, when Jose Reyes surpassed him. Reyes also played in two rain-shortened one-hitters (by Glavine and John Maine) in 2007.

Reyes should remember the previously mentioned Trachsel one-hitter against the Angels well—it came the same day as his first big league grand slam.

That's a better memory than Mets legend Darryl Strawberry has of the one-hitter thrown against the Phillies by Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell on May 11, 1985.

Strawberry tore ligaments in his thumb, preserving a then no-no with a third inning catch of a Juan Samuel fly ball, an injury that cost him 43 games, and may have made the difference in the Mets failing to beat out the Cardinals in the NL East race.

Strawberry came back from injury to help the Mets to the World Series title the next season. Jon Matlack came back from injury (a fractured skull suffered by being hit with a line drive) to nearly do so in 1973 (the Mets lost the World Series in seven games). But in lieu of a World Series, Matlack, who remembered throwing eight no-hitters in high school, threw one-hitters in both 1973 and 1974.

Matlack now works as the Tigers roving pitching instructor. Earlier this year, he tutored Armando Galarraga, not long before Galarraga threw his "imperfect game" against the Indians, so he can relate to what the Mets are going through in more ways than one.

"I think it's just bad luck," Matlack said, when asked for a former player's perspective on why we're celebrating Mets one-hitters instead of no-hitters. "The fates that go into it ... The baseball gods just haven't smiled on the Mets yet."

Maybe tonight.

Perez pounded

August, 1, 2010
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Mets pitchers allowed four home and 14 hits on Sunday against the Diamondbacks. But the worst sign for the Mets' staff on a very bad day at the office happened in the eighth inning, when Oliver Perez took the mound.

Perez, who has been persona-non-grata at Citi Field since he refused to accept a minor-league assignment in May, sets foot on the mound only when the Mets are out of pitchers or getting blown out.

The latter was the case on Sunday. Perez entered the game in the eighth with the Mets down, 10-1.

Perez allowed four earned runs on five hits in two innings to end a miserable afternoon for the Mets. He walked one and threw one wild pitch. He threw 28 of his 47 pitches for strikes. After the appearance, Perez insisted that he wears the Mets uniform "with honor" -- a comment that is sure to draw the ire of the Flushing faithful.

Jerry Manuel said the lefty reliever -- in the second year of a three-year, $36 million contract -- is in a "tough situation."

"Well it’s tough, he’s in a tough spot not getting the reps that (are) needed to gain confidence to compete," Manuel said. "He did go out and throw strikes for the most part (on Sunday) but right now he’s just in a tough, tough situation."

Perez, who was booed lustily after allowing an RBI single to Mark Reynolds in the eighth, said that he would continue to try and pitch through his problems. He added that he didn't want to pitch for another organization.

"I have to keep working. Keep working and I’m (not going to) give up. I think this is (baseball). Sometimes it’s tough and you have to be a real man and get better," Perez said. "... I’m here and trying to do everything to win. That’s why I’m here.

"... For me, when I wear this uniform I play with honor. I try to do the best."

ROTATION SPINNING: Prior to Sunday's game, Manuel said that Jon Niese would start on Friday night in Philadelphia if he pitched well against the Diamondbacks. That move would allow Hisanori Takahashi to pitch out of the bullpen for the Mets' three-game road series in Atlanta and Philadelphia this week.

Niese then proceeded to allow two three-run homers to Adam LaRoche in the fourth and fifth innings, leaving the Mets in a 6-1 hole. In all, Niese (7-5, 3.78 ERA) allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings against Arizona. It was the left-hander's first loss since a July 16th defeat at San Francisco, a game the Mets lost, 1-0.

Manuel wasn't ready to pronounce Niese as Friday night's starter after his rough start against the Diamondbacks.

"We’ll have to sit down and talk with (pitching coach Dan Warthen) and talk with (bullpen coach Randy Niemann) … and then make a decision," Manuel said.

Niese made it clear that he didn't want to be skipped.

"Obviously I want to be out there every five days," he said. "I feel good, and if I feel good I want to be out there."

BEL TOILS: Manuel spent a few minutes talking to Carlos Beltran about hitting before Sunday's game. Beltran was batting just .204 entering the series finale against Arizona. He raised his averge to .218 (12-for-55) with a pinch-hit single through the right side in the ninth inning.

"I know he's not confident, I know he's not seeing the ball well," Manuel said before Beltran's pinch-hit, adding that the Mets center fielder had "fundamental flaws" in his swing.

Beltran, who hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of the Mets' 5-4 win on Saturday, didn't want to use the fact that he missed three months recovering from athroscopic knee surgery as an excuse for his slow start through 16 games.

"I’m not here to put any excuses on saying I’m not ready," Beltran said after Saturday's game. "No, no. I’m here because I’m ready."

BAY HEADACHES 'PERSISTENT': Manuel said he hasn't talked to Jason Bay since the left fielder went on the disabled list on July 26 with what the team is calling a "mild concussion." Manuel said trainer Ray Ramirez told him that Bay's "headaches are still persistent." The manager said Bay would be re-evaluated in the coming days ... Manuel also said reliever Sean Green would have to have back-to-back strong outings at Triple-A Bufallo before the Mets would consider calling him back to the big leagues. Green allowed one run on two hits in a one-inning relief appearance on Saturday night. The right-hander has been on the disabled list since April 8 with a strained muscle on his right side.

June's significant develop'Mets'

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
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If we view May as the month in which the Mets fortunes turned, June is the month in which they established themselves as a contender for a postseason spot. In other words, it’s the time when they became legitimate (or, as we prefer, legitiMET).

It was a month in which Jose Reyes returned to full force, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese became the team’s top two pitchers and no one asked any questions about Jerry Manuel’s job status.

But we found a few other things worthy of honing in on, and we take a closer look here.

Behold the home grown infield
The injury to Luis Castillo and the emergence of Ruben Tejada has paid major dividends on multiple fronts.

The Mets won 13 of their first 15 games that Tejada started at second base, outscoring the opposition 76-33 in those 15.

Tejada had a 10-game hitting streak, but his biggest contribution was on the defensive end. The folks at Baseball Info Solutions tell us Tejada had 19 balls hit to him in double play situations at second base this month.

He turned 12 of them into twin killings, a conversion rate of 63 percent. That’s a significant improvement over Castillo’s 47 percent conversion rate (the major league average for a second baseman is 52 percent).

The other notable effect of Tejada’s emergence is that it’s given the team an infield of homegrown players, -- Ike Davis, Tejada, Jose Reyes, and David Wright.

That’s rare in Mets history, primarily because of the team’s revolving door at third base, and their frequent forays by trade or free agency to land a solid first baseman.

In fact, thanks to research done at my asking by the folks at Faith and Fear in Flushing, we know it’s the most prolific homegrown infield in Mets history. And right now, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to mess with the success.

Wright going right

Considering the depths to which David Wright’s performance sank in May (a .248 BA and 39 strikeouts), his performance in June was rather remarkable.

Wright finished the month hitting .404 with 29 RBI, only the third time in Mets' history that a player hit .400+ in a month in which he had at least 100 at-bats (Lance Johnson hit .405 in September 1996 and Moises Alou hit .402 in September, 2007).

The key hits were plenty, capped by his two-run first-inning double on Wednesday, giving Wright a .467 batting average and 14 hits with runners in scoring position for the month.

The difference for Wright was that he eradicated his biggest issue from May. In May, Wright had a dozen multi-strikeout games. This month, he only had six.

He became a much more aggressive hitter early in at-bats (as you can see in the accompanying chart) and the dividends were huge.

Owning the Eighth

Earlier this month, Francisco Rodriguez expressed some concerns about who would be setting up for him in the eighth inning.

Note to K-Rod. Don’t worry so much. The Marlins series put a slight blemish on the Mets eighth-inning mark, but prior to that, opponents were 11-for-72 (.153 BA) in the eighth-inning in June, with a total of one run scored.

Whichever eighth-inning option the Mets relied upon worked, even out-of-nowhere journeyman Elmer Dessens, who finished the month unscored upon and back-in-the-big leagues Bobby Parnell, who has looked sharp, for the most part.

If the Mets have anything to make them nervous now, it’s the ninth inning. Rodriguez had nine saves in June, matching his total from the first two months. But in only one of them did he retire his batters without allowing either a hit or walk.

Santana and Pelfrey Struggle

As good as Mike Pelfrey looked in April and Johan Santana looked in May, both struggled through their last four starts in June. And both had trouble with the pitches most responsible for their success.

Santana allowed four or more runs in each of four-straight starts for the first time since 2004. His biggest issue, as Eduardo Perez showed in a video review on Baseball Tonight, was the lack of tumble on his changeup.

The vintage Santana changeup dropped as if it was falling off a table. The current one doesn't have the same level of decline, making it a more hittable, or less-tempting to chase, pitch

We can illustrate with a simple statistic from our Inside Edge video data.

In 2008, opponents went 2-for-82 against Santana’s two-strike changeups that tumbled out of the strike zone. That’s his signature pitch, one responsible for 12-to-15 outs in a typical month.

In June of 2010, opponents were 2-for-4. That means Santana got just TWO outs with his tumble-out-of-the-zone two-strike changeup. And he gave up two hits ... as many as he allowed in all of 2008.

Pelfrey’s issue was with his split-fingered fastball, a swing-and-miss pitch early in the season, but not so much in his last four starts.

Indicative of that was his last home start against the Twins in which Inside Edge charted him for 24 splitters, none of which resulted in a swing-and-miss.

The one thing Pelfrey has going for him is that he’s got an alternative weapon -- the double play ball (helped by the emergence of the home-grown infield).

Twelve of the fourteen double plays he’s induced this year have protected a lead for him (the other two came with a one-run deficit and a tie score).

Santana has gotten 12 double plays this season, but in contrast to Pelfrey, the last five have come after the damage has been done, in situations in which he was already trailing.

Mo”Met” um Swing of the Month
We wanted to use this section to quantify the instance in which the Mets fortunes for the month were defined.

In May, we’d define that as the seventh inning of the Mets-Yankees Saturday night clash at Citi Field when Jenrry Mejia got Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out to escape major trouble and the Mets got the first of two-straight wins against their crosstown rival.

In June, we’ll pick the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie with the Padres on June 8. Wright made an error to put the go-ahead run on second with one out, but Pelfrey rose to the challenge by striking out Nick Hundley and getting Will Venable to ground out. Those two outs raised the Mets win probability (via Baseball-Reference) from 44 percent to 63 percent.

Two innings later, Ike Davis hit his first career walk-off home run and the Mets had the fourth win of a stretch in which they’d take 12 of 13 games.

Stat of the Month

Only two pitchers in Mets history have met the following criteria:
A) Pitched a one-hitter
B) Won at least one other game that month
C) Gone undefeated for that month

Jonathon Niese met all three criteria in June, matching Tom Seaver, who met all three in April, 1977, not long before being traded to the Reds.

Niese is nice, once again

June, 27, 2010
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Jonathon Niese had another strong outing on Sunday, pitching six shutout innings and giving up only four hits in picking up another win. He has now won his last four decisions.

Niese is 5-2 on the season, with a 3.84 ERA.

Niese has generally been very good this season, but his last outing wasn't his best. It was a tough situation. Niese pitched three no-hit innings, but then went 90 minutes without throwing a pitch because of a rain delay. When the rain stopped, Niese came back out to pitch, but struggled. He last only 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on seven hits, but the Mets still won the game.

"I thought last time was kind of an awkward situation," Niese said after Sunday's game. "I just wanted to put that in the past."

"He's been a good pitcher," manager Jerry Manuel said. "At some point he's gonna go through his ups and downs during the course of the early part of his career. You're gonna see some missteps here and there. But for the most part he has pitched very well."

LOVIN' INTERLEAGUE: The Mets finished the interleague portion of their schedule with an impressive 13-5 record against American League clubs, winning five of their six series. That's a franchise-best mark.

WRIGHT STUFF: David Wright tied Hanley Ramirez's record for interleague RBIs in a season, with 24 -- Ramirez set that record last season.

Wright's homer in the fifth inning was his 154th as a Met, tying him with Dave Kingman for fourth the Mets' all-time list.

Wright had three hits on the day, and is now hitting .300 on the season for the first time since April 14.

BAY MILESTONE: Jason Bay's triple in the fifth inning was the 1,000th hit of his major-league career. Bay is the 10th Canadian-born player to get 1,000 hits. Others include Larry Walker and Matt Stairs.

The bat Bay used is on its way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

PUTTING UP ZEROES: Sunday's game was the Mets' 11th shutout of the season. They lead the major leagues in that category.

HAZING RITUAL: The Mets' rookies were required to wear USA soccer jerseys and shorts for their trip to Puerto Rico. This included Niese, Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Jesus Feliciano, Hisanori Takahashi and Ryota Igarashi -- and even Takahashi's and Igarashi's interpreters!

Also, some of the Mets' veterans used scissors to alter the soccer jerseys, cutting holes in strategic places.

Fans recall Niese-like efforts

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
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In looking back on Jonathon Niese's one-baserunner shutout last Thursday night, we thought it would be appropriate to survey those who follow the Mets most, and ask them "What is your all-time favorite Mets pitching performance?"

As you'll see below, one or two tend to stand out more than the rest. Feel free to share your thoughts in the conversation section.

Gary Cohen, Mets broadcaster, SNY: I have witnessed countless outstanding pitching performances for and against the Mets, some resulting in Mets' wins, many others not. (See: Darryl Kile, 1993). I have seen a 15-strikeout game from Al Leiter, a 16-strikeout game from Sid Fernandez (a loss), Ron Darling's uber-clutch 1985 performance in St. Louis, and innumerable Dwight Gooden gems.

But considering the majesty of the moment, all others pale before Bobby Jones' one-hit, complete game, series clinching victory over the Giants in 2000. Left Dusty (Baker) in the dust.

John Coppinger, AKA: Metstradamus: Bobby Jones' one-hitter from the 2000 playoffs against the Giants. Jones had been sent down to the minors earlier in the season to get his act together, and that October he pitches the best game of his life in as big a stage as you get. And the one hit was by Jeff Kent, so it gives me a valid reason to despise Jeff Kent (not that he cares).

Mark Kelly, Hope Is The Best of Things: The most dominating performance I ever saw a Mets pitcher give was Bobby Jones in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS. He breezed through the first 4 innings allowing no runners to reach base, though I was too busy worrying that the Mets would hold on to their 2-0 lead to grasp that.

I remember Bobby Valentine warming up pitchers, but Jones kept cruising. What made this game so memorable was the setting. Anytime a pitcher gives that kind of performance in the postseason, it's big.

Tim O'Shaughnessy, ESPN (Tim designs the funky graphics you see on shows like SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight): In recent memory, John Maine's 14-strikeout, one-hit bid in Game 161 in 2007. It left us with pride, hope and relief by almost extinguishing fear of an actual collapse. It was also the last hopeful moment before we constantly started questioning our faith in the team. That start temporarily masked what we were becoming.

Matt Silverman, Mets historian and author: Tom Seaver's 10-straight strikeouts in 1970. Though I was in kindergarten and probably didn't know about the game for five or seven years after it happened, Seaver's 2-1 gem was like an encore for his glorious '69 season.

He'd fanned nine through 5 2/3 innings, then fanned the last 10 Padres -- starting and ending with Al Ferrera, who'd homered off him in the second inning. Jerry Grote said he stopped putting down signs.

Seaver's 19 K's broke the club record of 15 ... set by Nolan Ryan five days earlier. In the 40 years since, despite the overall increase in strikeouts, no pitcher has matched Seaver's 10 straight K's.

Less than 15,000 saw it on a Wednesday April afternoon at Shea against a putrid Padres club, but it's the game I think of when I think of dominance on the mound by a Met.

Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing: Tom Seaver hadn’t given up a hit through two outs in the bottom of the ninth at Wrigley Field, September 24, 1975. Could this be it? It couldn’t be because it was nothing-nothing, the Mets, per usual, not scoring for the best pitcher in the world.

Bob Murphy seemed almost apologetic on the radio that nine no-hit innings in a scoreless game couldn’t technically qualify as the first no-hitter in Mets history, even if Seaver could retire the next batter. And of course the next batter, a Jimmy Qualls stand-in named Joe Wallis, singled. And of course the Mets lost in extra innings. But two out in the ninth and Tom Seaver not having allowed a hit? I can’t imagine a better place to be in any baseball game.

Shannon Shark, AKA Metspolice : I will always admire and respect the way Johan Santana "manned up" in the next-to-last game of the 2008 season. Short rest off a high pitch count he decided "I can't trust you clowns. Give me the damn ball. I got this." and he did.

But my favorite pitching performance was Opening Day 1983. The Franchise, Tom Seaver, was back and after a memorable stroll down the right field line and six shutout innings, all was going to be OK in Flushing again.

Jason Fry, Faith and Fear in Flushing: Johan Santana, Sept. 27, 2008 against the Marlins, a 2-0 win. A three-hit shutout in a do-or-die game. He threw 117 pitches, on three days rest, after throwing a career high of 125 in his last start. I was in the park (the last time I ever saw Shea) and didn't leave my seat for nine innings. We knew what Santana had done, what he was trying to do, and what it meant for the Mets if he couldn't do it.

Come the sixth inning or so, mindful of that pitch count, I was watching the bullpen door, willing it to stay closed. The entire crowd spent the ninth on its feet, roaring Santana's name, trying to shove him across the finish line.

But he didn't need our help -- we needed his. He threw an entire team, organization and terrified fan base on his back and kept us alive for one more game. We knew it, and it was amazing.

But we didn't know just how amazing -- we had no idea he'd pitched all of September with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He did the impossible, on one leg, when it mattered most.

---

Niese's effort didn't make anyone's list, but maybe it will someday. Two final notes from that contest:

1. The folks at Baseball Info Solutions calculate "expected hits" for selected pitching performances.

Expected hits are figured by taking each ball hit during a game, and calculating how often a ball hit of that type (fly ball, ground ball, line drive) at that speed, to that spot, is a base hit. Niese's game checked in at 3.2 expected hits.

For comparitive purposes, that ranked below Roy Halladay's perfect game (2.2 expected hits), but right in line with Dallas Braden's perfect (3.0 expected hits) and Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter (3.0 expected hits).

2. With Niese having had one baserunner shutout, the inevitable question would be. Is this something that could happen again?

It's not likely.

Since the Mets' inception in 1962, four pitchers have thrown a pair of shutouts (nine innings or more) in which they allowed no baserunners, or one baserunner.

The prestigious group, found via help from Baseball-Reference.com features: Sandy Koufax, John Smiley, Mike Mussina, and Mark Buehrle.

Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn or e-mail him at webgemscoreboard@gmail.com.

10 things to know: Niese's one-hitter

June, 10, 2010
6/10/10
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A major cap-tip to Baseball-Reference.com for its assistance in this compilation.

1- Jonathon Niese's one-hitter marked the 23rd time a Mets pitcher has thrown a regular season complete game one-hitter of nine innings or more. The Mets also had one in Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS against the Giants from Bobby Jones.

2- Of those 23, only two other Mets pitchers threw accomplished the feat without allowing either a hit batsman or a walk -- Tom Seaver against the Cubs in 1969 (his near-perfect game of 8 1/3 innings) and Steve Trachsel against the Rockies.

Niese and Seaver are the only pitchers in Mets history to throw a one-baserunner one-hitter (Trachsel's game also included a Mets error).

3- Technically speaking, it was the 34th one-hitter (complete game or combined) in Mets history (including the Jones' effort in the postseason). But that list includes two losses in which the Mets pitched only eight innings, and two wins in which the Mets pitched fewer than nine innings.

4- This was Niese's 18th major league game pitched. That's the fewest games pitched by any Met to throw a complete game one-hitter (nine innings or more). Aaron Heilman held the previous mark, getting a one-hitter in his 21st game, against the Marlins in 2005.

5- Since the Mets came into existence in 1962, Niese is one of only six pitchers to throw a complete game (nine innings or more), yielding one baserunner of fewer, within the first 18 games of his career.

Incredibly, the most recent was by Mat Latos, who got the win for the Padres in the first game of the doubleheader. He pitched a one-hitter against the Giants on May 13th in his 17th big league game.

6- Niese is the sixth Mets pitcher, age 23 or younger to throw a complete game one-hitter. The youngest on the list was 19-year-old Dwight Gooden (1984 vs Cubs). Others on the list: Pete Schourek, Jon Matlack, Gary Gentry, and Nolan Ryan.

7- By the Bill James metric, Game Score (which measures starts based on innings, runs allowed, hits allowed, strikeouts and walks), Niese finished with a game score of 91.

It marked the 40th time that a Mets starter pitched to a game score of 91 or better in a regular season game, the first since Tom Glavine scored a 92 with a two-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in 2005.

8- Of a much more trivial nature: Niese drew two walks, marking the 39th time in Mets history that a pitcher had a multi-walk game (the team record is three, shared by Jay Hook in 1962 and Jon Matlack in 1975.

9- This was the third time in Mets history that they pitched a one-hitter against the Padres. The others were by Seaver in 1972 (a no-hitter broken up in the ninth inning) and David Cone in 1988.

10- Chris Denorfia, who had the Padres only hit, was born in Bristol, Connecticut, the home of ESPN.

Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn or e-mail him at webgemscoreboard@gmail.com.

Niese the unsung hero of Ike Davis' debut

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
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Somewhat lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding Ike Davis making his major-league debut, the Mets' starting pitcher on Monday night, Jonathon Niese -- another 23-year-old, just like Davis -- had a very good, gutty outing. Niese went 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run. He did give up eight hits and three walks, but worked out of trouble on multiple occasions.

"He battled through some tough situations for most of the time he was out there," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said after the game. "But the good thing about it is, he seemed confident in being in those spots. It didn't seem as though he was rattled by the situation."

Niese also tied a career-high with seven strikeouts in the game. He had done that once before, on Sept. 13, 2008, vs. Atlanta.

"I just tried to battle," Niese said after the game. "I just tried to keep the ball down, and get a ground ball [when he needed to]."

Twenty-year-old pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia hurled two scoreless innings to finish off the Cubs on Monday night. Between Davis, Niese and Mejia, maybe the Mets' future is brighter than many people think?

AN ANGELIC BLAST: Angel Pagan picked a very good time to hit his first home run of the season -- it broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning, and put the Mets ahead for good.

"I just saw the pitch and tried to put the barrel on it, and it went out," Pagan said.

Pagan's home run also ended the Mets' streak of at-bats without an extra-base hit at 117. That was the Mets' longest drought since June 4-8, 1983, when they went 121 at-bats without an extra-base hit. (Thanks to ESPN Stats and Information.)

The Mets ended up putting five runs on the board in that seventh inning -- that's the teams biggest offensive inning of the season.

BAY WATCH: Jason Bay also contributed in that seventh inning, collecting just his third RBI of the season -- this after being given a day off on Sunday, following his 0-for-7 performance against the Cardinals in Saturday's 20-inning marathon.

"It doesn’t hurt," Bay said of the day off. "Obviously the first week and a half, or whatever, two weeks almost, haven't gone exactly how I'd want. But I realize that I'm not going to make it all up -- you can't go up there and try to hit a grand slam with nobody on. I'm not going to make it up in one day. It was a good start in the right direction."

WRIGHT STUFF: David Wright's single in the fourth inning tied him with Jerry Grote for ninth place all-time in Mets history with 994 hits.

REYES RESTS: Jose Reyes was not in the starting lineup Monday night -- Manuel wanted to give Reyes a rest, since he too has been struggling at the plate, currently batting .150. But Reyes pinch-hit for Alex Cora to lead off the seventh inning, was hit by a pitch, and eventually scored on Pagan’s home run.

Evaluating Jon Niese

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
7:33
PM ET
There's been a lot of talk of the struggles of John Maine in his first two starts. But what to make of the work of Jon Niese?

Niese has spoken about issues he was having getting a good feel for his curveball. The numbers through two starts bear that out. A closer look at video review data, provided by Inside Edge, shows the following:

Niese isn't someone who gets a lot of swings-and-misses with his breaking balls, but he's gotten none yet this season. His breaking pitches have been ripped for five base hits. He's allowed more hits with his hook than he's gotten outs (four).

In the first eight starts of his career, Niese allowed only six hits with his breaking pitches, and got 33 outs.

Perhaps most indicative of his issues so far, Niese has thrown his breaking ball 12 times with a two-strike count. That has yielded four hits, and no outs.

There's a little consolation in that his fastball is being chased more frequently when it's been out of the strike zone (an above-average rate of 30 percent of the time, up from 18 percent in his first two seasons), and that it's being missed more frequently (hitters are missing on 20.8 percent of their swings, up from 14.8 percent).

The problem is that when his fastball is being hit, batters are still hitting .308 against it.

***

Bobby Valentine did his share of reminiscing about losing three straight series to start a season as Mets manager. That happened to Valentine in 1997, when the Mets got off to a 3-9 start, one that included allowing 11 runs in an inning on Opening Day, and three extra-inning walk-off losses.

In the annals of forgettable seasons though, 1997 isn't one of them. Valentine's Mets turned things around. He talked on Baseball Tonight about the need for little victories, which will produce bigger victories down the road.

The 1997 Mets had their share. Two that made Valentine smile were a 6-0 victory over the Yankees in the first meeting between the two teams, and an improbable rally from a 6-0 deficit against the Expos with two outs in the ninth inning. The 1997 Mets finished 88-74 and were in the hunt for a playoff spot late into the season.

Current fans of the team probably aren't seeing the same kind of turnaround in store for this squad.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
11 3.85 125 161
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .297
HRL. Duda 22
RBIL. Duda 66
RD. Murphy 69
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.49
SOZ. Wheeler 145