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.
They couldn’t be any more opposite, RA Dickey and Stephen Strasburg.
One, Dickey, is a 35-year-old knuckleballer hanging on to his career with grit, guile and perseverance. The other, Strasburg, is the rookie phenom, who despite a handful of starts in his young career already has some clamoring for him to be on the National League All-Star team.
Imagine, less than 40 career innings and already they are lobbying for him to be an All-Star. It shouldn’t happen, but you never know.
This has not been a good roadtrip for the Mets, who have lost three of four so far to Florida and Washington, teams they should be feasting on.
The Mets have played well at home this year, but have been lackluster on the road, and so far have gone 8-14 against the Marlins and Nationals. After losing last night, they are 3-6 against Washington.
If they are going to stay in contention, they must beat up on those teams.