After R.A. Dickey‘s glowing performance last night to bring the series between the Mets and Pirates even at one game a piece, it was Jonathon Niese who New York was turning to for the series victory on getaway day at PNC Park. Niese was looking to bounce back from his worst start of the year against the Toronto Blue Jays, and Charlie Morton was taking the hill for Pittsburgh, who has had an uneven season at best.
What put the Mets in a great position to take this game today was the run they scored in the top of the first inning. This allowed Niese to breathe for a minute, knowing that he already has a lead to handle before he even stepped foot on the mound. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
singled with one out, took second on a wild pitch, then advanced to third on a David Wright fly out. Then, Lucas Duda came through for the second day in a row with another RBI single, giving New York a quick, 1-0 lead.
Both Niese and Morton pitched well this afternoon, matching zero for zero after that run scored, until the top of the fifth inning. Rob Johnson led off the frame with a single, allowing Niese to bunt him over to second. A Mike Baxter single set the stage for Captain Kirk once again, who came through with a sacrifice fly, plating Johnson for the second run of the game for the Mets. Next up was David Wright, hitless in his last five at-bats; he broke out of his “slump” with an RBI double, pushing the lead to 3-0.
Niese finally made his first mistake in the sixth inning, allowing a lead off double to Josh Harrison, eventually leading to an RBI single by Andrew McCutchen. However, he was able to minimize the damage by inducing Neil Walker into a double play, putting an end to the rally and the inning. The Mets lefty was able to get back on track with his performance today; his final line looked like the Jon Niese we got used to in his first few starts: 7.2 IP, 5 hits, 2 BB, 1 R, 5 K’s. Bobby Parnell relieved him to face McCutchen, who he struck out.
After a quiet top of the ninth, the table was once again set for Frank Francisco to notch another save. He did so for the second straight day, retiring the side in order and register two strikeouts. Now, instead of an ERA approaching 9.00, it’s under 7.00. Progress. See what happens when you keep the ball down, Frankie?
There were no standout performers offensively, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis did contribute two hits behind Baxter at the top of the lineup. Wright’s 1-for-4 day dropped his average down to .399; Ike Davis got a hit in his first at-bat today, but that was it as he ended the day 1-for-4 as well, with another strikeout. His average is now at .159…not something you go home bragging about. The pitching was terrific today, headlined by Niese getting back to the type of pitcher Sandy Alderson would like to see through the life of his five-year extension.
The win improves the Mets’ record to 24-20 on the season, while taking two of three from the Pirates, which is what they were supposed to do as the “better” team. They have now won two straight as they head home to Citi Field to start a long home stand during Memorial Day weekend, with the equally offensively challenged San Diego Padres coming to town.
Probable Pitchers tomorrow:
Eric Stults (0-0, 2.70 ERA) gets the party started for the Friars at Citi Field as Terry Collins sends Jeremy Hefner (0-1, 2.25 ERA) to the mound for his first Major League start in front of the home crowd. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm.