PITTSBURGH -- Jonathon Niese got a rain-shortened complete-game victory Saturday night. Unless the Mets make a late playoff push, his season might be cut short, too.
Niese pitched a five-hitter, David Wright hit a three-run homer and New York beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 in a game called in the top of the sixth inning after a rain delay of 1 hour, 6 minutes.
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Niese's biggest inning was the fifth and not just because he stopped the Pirates after allowing a one-out double to Jose Tabata. More importantly, he got through the inning in timely fashion as heavy rain started to fall. The game became official once the fifth inning was completed."Jon has been working more quickly and he picked a good time to really work quickly," New York manager Jerry Manuel said with a smile.Niese was credited with his third career complete game, all this season, despite pitching the fewest innings in his last four starts. He allowed a run in seven innings in each of his previous three outings without a decision.Niese struck out five and walked one in pushing the Mets (62-61) above .500 with their third win in four games.There are questions about how much the Mets will allow the 23-year-old to pitch this season. He has worked 138 innings, the most in his six professional seasons and 18 more than last year when he missed the final two months of his rookie year with a torn hamstring tendon."If we get on a little run and get back into the race, we're going to need him down the stretch," Manuel said. "We might have to push him a little. I hope we do."Niese plans to follow orders."I know they'll have my best interests in mind with whatever decision they make," Niese said. "I feel good, though. I feel like I've caught a second wind. I haven't iced my shoulder since the All-Star break."Wright's home run off James McDonald (2-3) in fifth inning landed in the Mets' bullpen in center field and pushed the lead to 5-1. It came after Angel Pagan led off the inning with a double and Carlos Beltran walked.The Pirates lost their fifth straight and 12th in 13 games.Jose Reyes and Pagan each had two hits for the Mets. Reyes sprinted home from third base with the game's first run in the first inning when Chris Carter swung at strike three in the dirt and catcher Chris Snyder had to throw to first base to complete the strikeout.New York broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth when Ike Davis led off with a double off the top of the center-field fence and scored on Ruben Tejada's one-out sacrifice fly.Pittsburgh tied it in the third when Andrew McCutchen hit the second of his two doubles leading off. He scored on a single by Neil Walker.McDonald was tagged for five runs and six hits in five innings after winning his previous two home starts since being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a July 31 trade. He also walked five and struck out four."I didn't have my command but I still could have made better pitches to keep my team in the game," McDonald said. "I'd like to take back some of the walks, in particular. I just wish I could have pitched better."The Mets have scored 12 runs in the first two games of the series. Hitting coach Howard Johnson tore into his hitters in a pregame meeting before the series opener on Friday night, questioning their pregame preparation."It wasn't like HoJo gave us any great words of wisdom," Wright said. "We've just started swinging the bats better."
The win assured New York of its first road series victory against a National League team this season, though it did sweep Baltimore and Cleveland on the road in interleague play Pittsburgh rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez is hitless in his last 14 at-bats, striking out eight times, after going 0 for 2. ... Rain also delayed the game's start for 15 minutes The Pirates wore replica uniforms of the Pittsburgh Crawfords as a tribute to the Negro Leagues and the Mets wore New York Cubans' replicas.