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.’’
The replays didn’t show whether, or where, Mike Pelfrey’s errant fastball clipped Scott Rolen, but how the Mets’ pitcher responded to not getting that call, and not getting a later call on a strike to Drew Stubbs was the backdrop of Cincinnati’s six-run fifth inning and subsequently last night’s loss to the Reds.
Pelfrey didn’t lose last night because he didn’t get a couple of calls. He lost because of his reaction to not getting those calls.
Whereas Pelfrey had been composed most of this season, he became flustered and unnerved. Whereas he had minimized damage he dug himself into a hole the Mets could not dig out of. His body language spoke of frustration and anger.
Pelfrey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He didn’t do his job, which, is when things go awry to remember he still needs to get outs.
“I thought, for the first time in over a year, I let my emotions get the best of me,’’ Pelfrey said. “And, that wasn’t very good on my part.’’