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Niese Finds Stride in Mets Win in Pittsburgh

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Jonathan Niese   Justin K. Aller Getty Images Sport

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PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Jonathon Niese did more than merely sit back
and stew after what his manager called “the worst game he’s ever
pitched in his life.”

He worked to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
Niese allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings, ending a six-start
winless streak and helping the New York Mets beat the Pittsburgh
Pirates 3-1 Wednesday for their third victory four games.
Niese (3-2) gave up five hits, struck out five and walked two,
five days after matching his career high by allowing eight runs in
a 14-5 loss at Toronto.
“He was upset,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “It was
human nature, but the thing is, he fought back and gave us a great
game today. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to bounce
back.”

Niese has been 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his previous six starts.
He sat down with pitching coach Dan Warthen and veteran ace Johan
Santana to discuss his approach to individual hitters. He did “a
lot more preparation” in leading up to facing the Pirates, who are
last in the majors in runs.
“He was very effective, kept the ball down, bought some
territory inside from time to time with the cutter, mixed in all
his pitches,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “But we
weren’t able to put good swings on it. That was pretty obvious.”
Bobby Parnell struck out Andrew McCutchen with runners on second
and third to end the eighth. Frank Francisco completed the
five-hitter with a perfect ninth for his third save in four days,
his 12th in 14 chances this season.

New York improved to 15-6 in games decided by two runs or fewer,
second in the majors behind Baltimore’s 16-6. For the second
straight game, the Mets scored all their runs with two outs.
Charlie Morton (2-5) lost for the fourth time in five starts,
allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings. The Pirates
have lost three of four and four of six.
“It wasn’t necessarily great pitching,” Morton said. “Just
competing.”

Kirk Nieuwenhuis reached on a one-out single in the first and
scored on Lucas Duda’s single. Nieuwenhuis sacrifice fly and David
Wright’s RBI double _ the only extra-base hit for the Mets _ made
it 3-0 in the fifth.

Wright went 1 for 4, dropping his NL-leading average to .399.
“When you pitch, you can scratch out some wins but when not
pitching and hitting at the same, that’s a bad combination,”
Collins said. “David got another big hit today. As long as he’s
hitting we’re going to score runs but we’ve got to get other guys
in our lineup going.”

Niese won for the first time since April 14. He was effective
despite rarely throwing his curveball, a pitch that is typically
one of his strengths.

Niese said he shook off catcher Rob Johnson only once _ and the
result was one of Clint Barmes’ two singles off of him.
“He was locating very well, especially two-seamer,” Johnson
said. “You obviously have a game plan when you go out there, but
you could see in the bullpen warming up that he had a little extra
life to it. You could see it was a pitch that was going to work for
him so we went to it quite a bit along with the cutter and it
worked out well.”

Eighteen of the 23 outs Niese recorded were via a groundball or
strikeout. Only four hits reached the outfield off of him, five
days after he allowed four home runs.
“My mechanics were a little off, my stride was off. my balance
was off,” Niese said of the start in Toronto. “Everything that
had to do with balance and my body was way off. I really
concentrated on that in the bullpen, just to stay balances, just to
stay over the rubber.
“I knew that wasn’t the best my last outing,” Niese added. “I
wanted to put it behind me and just wanted to concentrate on fixing
things.”

NOTES: Pittsburgh has scored a total of six runs in its past
four defeats combined. Josh Harrison doubled for the Pirates
leading off the sixth and scored on McCutchen’s single. … Pirates
RHP Jason Grilli was activated from the bereavement list and LHP
Jeff Locke was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Grilli, whose
wife’s grandfather died last week, struck out the side in the
eighth. … The Mets begin a season-long 11-game homestand Thursday
against San Diego. … RHP A.J. Burnett will start for the Pirates
in a series opener against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. He has
allowed more than two runs in only one of six starts.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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