That’s the way it’s going to have to be tonight at San Francisco as Niese (6-3, 3.61) tries to pull the Mets out of their July funk.
After a boom in June that saw the Mets go 11 games over .500 and pull within a game of Braves, they are 4-7 for July to find themselves five games behind during a very precarious part of their schedule as this is the second game of a season-high 11-game road trip.
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.
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.
The Mets come off their 7-2 road trip – had the offense not take the last two games of the Yankees series off it could have been 8-1 or better – yet another example of their streakiness.
After winning seven straight on the road the Mets scored all of three runs on 10 hits in the last two games of the Yankees series, and in the process dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the Braves.
The Mets have been all or nothing this year, either sizzling or freezing. They should not be penalized because they beat up on Baltimore on Cleveland, because playoff caliber teams should maul the weaker teams.
The Mets’ June cruise has not only made them relevant in the National League pennant races, but subsequently also at the July 31 trade deadline.
LEE: July's big fish.
With management believing this is no fluke and the Mets will continue to play alert, aggressive baseball, there are serious discussions not whether they should trade, but whom to trade for – and just as important, whom they should not trade.
Their interest, despite this remarkable run by the rotation, must remain pitching. First rotation; second bullpen.
There is a sense of calm derived from how well Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey have pitched, and a feeling of optimism with Jon Niese’s run since coming off the disabled list.