Jonathan Niese will be pitching tonight to push the Mets to 11 games over .500, which would tie their season high and pull them within a game of Atlanta with the Braves coming in this weekend for three games.
Once four games under .500 and floundering early this season, the Mets are relevant again and could be in first place by the All-Star break.
Niese is more than partly attributable to that relevancy, going 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts since his June 5 return from the disabled list. The Mets are 10-2 in his last 12 starts, including beating Washington last Friday when he struck out a season-high eight and didn’t issue a walk.
What makes him successful?
“I think if I’m able to throw all my pitches for strikes,’’ Niese said. “I think I have a good variety that keeps them off-balance.’’
Off-balance is what tonight’s Reds starter, Bronson Arroyo, has kept the Mets, going 6-2 in ten career starts against them.
SANTANA: Offers encouragement for strong second half.
In watching Johan Santana toy with Cincinnati it was almost as if he were telling Mike Pelfrey, “Mike, this is how you do it.’’
While Santana isn’t as consistently dominant as he used to be, for one night he was as good as ever, throwing a three-hit shutout of the Reds, 3-0, with the game-winning run coming on his first career home run.
And in the ninth inning, after Jason Bay’s dropped pop-up in left, Santana told Jerry Manuel, “I‘ll finish it.’’