The Mets are now paying Jon Niese stopper money. Tonight he needs to earn it against San Francisco’s Barry Zito as the Mets seek to stabilize after losing three of their last four games.
After a surprisingly fast start, the Mets limp home with their rotation crushed, giving up 31 runs in the four games.
“We need Jon to give us a game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. So far, Niese has given the Mets two, winning both behind a nifty 2.13 ERA.
Niese will attempt to pick up the mess left by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey in the last two games, and the bullpen’s meltdown Sunday at Philadelphia.
The Mets have always liked the physical aspects of Niese’s game; his location, velocity and movement on his pitches. However, the more they see him the more they appreciate his poise and composure. He ‘s not afraid to challenge hitters, including when behind in the count. That’s how one becomes a stopper.
After the shortest stint of his career, Johan Santana said he felt fine. Obviously, that was the first thought seeing him walk to the dugout in the second inning after recording just four outs.
SANTANA: A dejected Santana walks off
It still is this morning.
Since Santana returned this spring, he and the Mets responded after every start with the clipped comment of waiting to see how he feels the next day and following his throw day,
That doesn’t change for me now.
Last night, he said, “I felt fine.”
I want to hear him say that in August and September.
Santana has pitched brilliantly in his first two starts, but his velocity wasn’t where it was before. Last night, his command was off. Sure, there is concern. There has to be.
Let’s face it, he’s coming off a serious shoulder surgery few pitchers have successfully recovered from before, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t think everything is fine.
David Wright, Andres Torres and Jason Bay have all missed games because of injuries, but for the most part manager Terry Collins has resisted any urge to crazy juggle his line-up, something Jerry Manuel did on a consistent basis.
Johan Santana will make his third start of the season tonight. Here’s the line-up behind him:
Ruben Tejada, ss
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf
Johan Santana, lhp
Yes, the Mets were shut out, and yes, losing David Wright for the past two games helped exposed their offense, but that’s an oversimplification. Yesterday was about Mets’ hitters striking out 15 times – none by Wright – and their pitchers walking ten.
WRIGHT: Mets hope he'll be back to throw helmet.
Terry Collins was right. The Mets should have lost by more.
You can lament losing Wright all you want, but the real problem is through six games the Mets received precious little from Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Jason Bay. Duda had those two homers, but outside of that there’s been nothing.
Nothing, of course, sums up what the Mets have received from Davis and Bay and unless that suddenly changes, their feel-good start will be history. Hell, it probably already is with the Mets heading into Philadelphia for the weekend.
When your ace, Johan Santana, who is coming off surgery has an ERA of 0.90 and has two no-decisions, that pretty much says it all.
ON DECK: What to do with Jason Bay?
There was a crispness to the day. Both in the weather and the way the Mets played. It was a delightful day, one that gave us a glimpse of what could be when they put it all together. Hopefully, Mike Pelfrey was taking notes on Johan Santana and pitching out of trouble as he did in the fifth.
The talking heads on SNY – and I’m not talking the play-by-play team – were in their bombastic best yesterday, saying this is how it is going to be all year with Santana and the bullpen.
How do they know that?
It would be great if that were the case, but remember, Santana is coming off a complicated surgery and the bullpen is a patchwork group. Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco were good yesterday, but if they were that good Toronto would have kept them.
Tim Byrdak was key, but how much of that was adrenalin?
I hope what they are saying happens. Damn, I want this to be a good year for the Mets. I don’t want to rain on the parade, but I guess that’s what I am here for – to put some objectivity to the picture.
Yesterday was fun. It was memorable. But, tomorrow is the real opening day.