Niese back on track as Mets take series from Pirates

If you missed last night’s awesome R.A. Dickey start and the Mets win that came long with it, my recap is over at The Daily Stache. Feel free to read it, or just know that Dickey set a new career high with 11 strikeouts. Hooray!

Today, the decent pitching continued, as Jon Niese went seven and two-thirds innings and allowed just one run against an admittedly weak Pirates lineup. Niese surprised by only throwing five curveballs all day (he had been averaging 21.4 according to an SNY graphic), but he got by just fine with his fastball, cutter and change-up. At the end of the day, Niese had struck out five Buccos and only walked a pair.

“I really didn’t need it [the curveball],” said Niese after the game, “I thought I was really using the backdoor cutter a lot, and it was working.”

The Mets, buoyed by Niese’s fine day, went on to win 3-1. The offense came quickly for New York, who went up 1-0 in the first inning went Kirk Nieuwenhuis singled with one out and eventually scored on a Lucas Duda RBI single.

The lead was extended in the fifth when Rob Johnson and Mike Baxter each hit a single on either side of Jon Niese’s sacrifice bunt. That put runners on the corners with one out and Nieuwenhuis followed with a sac fly to make the score 2-0. David Wright then lifted a fly off of the right field Roberto Clemente wall to get Baxter in from first and give the Mets a 3-0 advantage.

Pittsburgh got on the board in the sixth when Josh Harrison doubled and was driven in by an Andrew McCutchen RBI single, but Niese got the next batter Neil Walker to hit into a double play and just continued cruising along. Trouble didn’t hit again until the eighth, when a Clint Barmes bloop single and a walk to rookie Gorkys Hernandez put the tying run on base for McCutchen with two outs. Bobby Parnell came in to pitch to the stud center fielder, who is even more studly against lefties like Niese.

The pressure only rose when Rob Johnson’s attempt to pick off Hernandez squirted by Ike Davis and allowed both runners to advance. Fortunately, Parnell continued being excellent and struck out McCutchen to end the threat. Frank Francisco had absolutely no trouble in the ninth, and the Mets were 3-1 winners in under two and a half hours.

Here’s the box score for the Mets victory. Nieuwenhuis had a nice game with a pair of hits plus the sac fly. Davis was able to hit a line drive single in his first at-bat and later drove a ball deep into left center field that got run down by Hernandez. I’m still waiting for him to go a whole game without striking out, though.

There’s a good chance that more good Mets pitching is on the way, because New York opens up a four game set with the offensively challenged San Diego Padres starting tomorrow night. Jeremy Hefner will get the start for the Mets while lefty Eric Stults will take the mound for the Padres.

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