On June 12th, Jon Niese was pitching in the 7th inning of a 1-1 duel against the Brewers at Citi Field. With two outs, the southpaw from Defiance High School in Ohio became displeased after peering over his left shoulder to see manager Terry Collins emerging from the dugout. A clearly bewildered Jon Niese was caught by TV cameras mouthing, “what the eff?” And at the time, I couldn’t blame Niese for his dismay with Collins’ decision to pull him for I thought the same exact thing. But upon Collins arrival to the mound, Niese obediently surrendered the ball and acknowledged the crowd’s applause on his way towards the dugout.
Niese struck out 8 Brewers that day – a season high. Prior to Tuesday night’s start against the St. Louis Cardinals, Niese pitched 3 games in June, threw 22.2 innings, allowed just 5 earned runs on 19 hits and 3 walks, while fanning 17 batters. However, the game also marked Jon Niese’s fourth consecutive no-decision, and his 7th for the season.
Considering he is presently pitching the best baseball of his career with little to show for his efforts, I fully understand his frustration.
I had my doubts about Niese this season. He avoided surgery last season by treating a partially torn rotator cuff with rest and rehabilitation. Then in spring training Niese first complained of pain in his shoulder again, followed by pain in his elbow. He was flown back to New York City twice for MRI’s which came back negative. Back in March, I did not think he would make it into June, but he has since started 14 games this season to prove me wrong, and (in the absence of Matt Harvey) is emerging as the staff ace many hoped he would become last season.
In 13 starts leading into Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals, Niese’s 7.8 H/9, 2.3 W/9, 1.129 WHiP and 2.54 ERA all represented career bests.
With one out in the 5th inning of Tuesday’s game, Niese hit the #8 batter Daniel Descalso with a pitch. Then with two outs, Niese surrendered an RBI triple to John Jay, and an RBI double to Matt Holliday, both hit just beyond Lucas Duda‘s reach at first base. Jon Niese then utilized the eff-word in disgust again, only this time with much more vigor than he did on June 12th. Niese’s frustration continued to grow when a pair of 7th inning Daniel Murphy misplays allowed the Cardinals to take a 5-1 lead.
This was only the second time Niese allowed a season high 5 runs in a game, but like his performance back on May 16th, only 3 of those were earned. In fact, this was Niese’s 18th consecutive start of allowing 3 runs or less. Although his ERA grew from 2.56 to a 2.67 mark Tuesday evening, he still ranks in the National League’s top ten. He has now either failed to reach the 7th, or pitch into the 7th inning an equal 7 times in 14 starts.
Unfortunately for a man arguably pitching at his career best, Niese has not earned a victory since May 22nd.
His first decision since then resulted in Tuesday’s loss in St. Louis, which dropped his record to a 3-4 mark.
Eff-bombs would be flying out of my mouth too.