Jul 16

Niese continues to shine; Hairston comes through.

The more he pitches, the better he gets. Even if he doesn’t know how to grow a beard, he’s showing he knows how to pitch.

NIESE: Getting better and better.

Without Johan Santana, the Mets don’t have an ace, but the closest they have is Jonathan Niese, who won his ninth game Saturday in an 11-2 rout of the Phillies.

Entering the season, it was thought Mike Pelfrey would continue to develop, but this has been a disappointing season for him. Conversely, Niese is making big strides, and beating the Phillies with seven strong innings was one of them.

Also a storyline was Scott Hairston, who homered and drove in five runs in an audition for the right field job in case the Mets deal Carlos Beltran, as they are likely to do.

Hairston was a late starter after Beltran came down with flu like symptoms. Beltran could sit again Sunday. Manager Terry Collins gave Hairston notice as soon as he got to the park, and unlike Jerry Manuel, didn’t wait until game time to make a decision. Hairston said that’s key for a role player.

“I found out I was in the lineup right away. It gave me a couple of hours to prepare,’’ Hairston said. “I’ve played in this role for the last few years. It’s a very difficult role. I rely on that experience.’’

While Beltran said he wants to play out his career with the Mets, it is expected the team will trade him as this is the final year of his contract, one that doesn’t offer arbitration which would give them compensatory draft picks.