Game Recap: Niese Spins Another Gem in 6-1 win

By Matt Musico

After two straight shutouts, one including Johan Santana‘s historic no-hitter, Jonathon Niese took the mound to keep the starting pitching dominance going against the Cardinals during their first prime time appearance of the season. Once John Franco was officially inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, Niese and the Amazins were set to take their third straight game against the Cardinals, putting them in a three-way tie for first place with the Nationals and Marlins.

After an uneven start against the Phillies on Memorial Day, Niese was able to come back with a solid curve ball to keep the Cardinals scoreless for another six innings, running the streak in this series for Mets starters to 24 innings. Once St. Louis went down quietly in the top of the first, the Mets put together a rally in the bottom of the inning; Captain Kirk popped out to lead things off, but Andres Torres doubled and David Wright walked. Lucas Duda had another productive at-bat, driving in Torres with an RBI single. Daniel Murphy singled to load the bases for Ike Davis, but he looked horrible as Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook struck him out easily. Westbrook then got Omar Quintanillato ground out to end the inning, leaving the damage at only one run.

That was all the run support that Niese needed on a night like this. After three more zeroes were put on the board by New York, Niese helped his own cause by singling in the bottom of the fourth, one of his two hits. Then, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his third home run of the year, a two-run shot that sailed into the bullpen, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead.

Niese worked through the sixth inning and looked like a whole different pitcher compared to his previous start, as it only took him 96 pitches (70 strikes) to complete his night. He gave up six hits, and unlike Monday against the Phillies, he only walked one hitter, while striking out a career-high 10 batters. Terry Collins decided to pinch hit his southpaw in the bottom of the inning with a rally brewing and the opportunity to add on some more insurance runs. It started with an Omar Quintanilla walk and Josh Thole single; Jordany Valdespin popped out, then Nieuwenhuis was at it again with an RBI single. Andres Torres followed that with a two-run triple to extend the lead to 6-0 with the bullpen making it’s first appearance since Wednesday night.

The bullpen was looking to lock down the team’s third straight win; Bobby Parnell started it by contributing a scoreless inning, and Elvin Ramirez made his MLB debut, pitching 0.2 innings. He gave up the only run of the game, but he got his feet wet in a low stress situation, which is exactly what Terry Collins wanted. Tim Byrdak retired the one lefty he was supposed to face, then Frank Francisco continued his journey back to relevancy with a scoreless inning on two strikeouts to secure the win for New York.

The Mets notched their 19th win at home to push their overall record to 31-23, their third straight win, and puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the National League East. Niese was the obvious standout performer for Mets pitching, continuing the dominance in this series by the starting rotation. Offensively, Kirk Nieuwenhuis added three hits and his third home run, Andres Torres added three hits of his own and two RBI, and Jonathon Niese collected two hits of his own. Ike Davis went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, dropping his NL-worst average to .166. This series against all right-handers isn’t going exactly how he would like. After struggling Saturday with runners in scoring position, the Mets were back in business with a 4-for-11 mark.

Probable Pitchers Monday:

The Mets look for a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, hoping to put them under .500 with a sixth straight loss. Manager Mike Matheny will look to Kyle Loshe (5-1, 3.36 ERA) to stop the bleeding against Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.69 ERA). The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10pm as these two teams finish off their wrap around series. If the Mets can sweep this set, they will secure a season series victory after two straight years of splitting with the Cardinals.