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Nieuwenhuis Goes Deep, Mets Win Again

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 03: Kirk Nieuwenhuis #9 of the New York Mets celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on June 3, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 03: Kirk Nieuwenhuis #9 of the New York Mets celebrates his fourth inning two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on June 3, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jonathon Niese’s elevated heart rate is the only
problem a Mets pitcher has run into lately.

Niese struck out a career-high 10 in six scoreless innings
before he was pulled as a precaution and New York shut down the
slumping St. Louis Cardinals for the third straight game, getting a
homer and three RBIs from rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis in a 6-1 victory
Sunday night.

Niese matched a career high with two hits and said his heart
“started racing” after he singled and scored on Nieuwenhuis’
homer in the fourth. He had the same issue during an outing in
Texas last season and wore a heart monitor afterward on the bench
in Detroit. But tests checked out fine and the left-hander hasn’t
had any such problems since.

“It’s kind of like a huge adrenaline rush,” Niese explained.
“I kept feeling the heart racing at the end. I said to myself, `I
went out and pitched six scoreless innings, that is enough, don’t
do anything stupid.”

Niese had an EKG during his spring training physical and
everything came back fine. He will have more tests Monday, manager
Terry Collins said, but Niese insisted he’s not worried.

“Not really, because I felt it before and it’s not an issue,”
he said. “It started in the fourth inning, but then it went
away.”

Andres Torres added a two-run triple and threw out a runner at
the plate from center field. He finished a homer shy of the cycle.
Nieuwenhuis, batting leadoff, also had three hits.

Niese (4-2) became the latest New York pitcher to dominate the
Cardinals, following Johan Santana’s no-hitter in the series opener
Friday night _ the first in Mets history _ and knuckleballer R.A.
Dickey’s seven-hit shutout Saturday.

“I chart every one of Johan’s games. I watched him attack
hitters, establish his fastball in _ that is what I tried to do
today,” Niese said. “I think I had a good release point today
with my curveball.”

The only thing that prevented the Cardinals from being blanked
in three consecutive games for the first time since October 1976
was a two-out RBI single by Adron Chambers in the eighth off Elvin
Ramirez, who was making his major league debut.

That snapped New York’s scoreless streak at 25 innings and ended
St. Louis’ drought at 26 innings dating to Wednesday’s 10-7 loss at
Atlanta. The Cardinals have lost five straight and eight of 10 to
fall back to .500 at 27-27.

“We ran into some pretty good pitching. We ran into some
at-bats that I think some guys would like to have back,” manager
Mike Matheny said. “It’s just one of those runs. The only way to
get out of it is to work.”

Thanks to some stellar pitching, the surging Mets (31-23) are
headed in the opposite direction. They have won seven of nine and
10 of 14 to move eight games over .500 for the first time since
July 2010. The latest victory pulled them within within percentage
points of first-place Washington in the NL East.

“They should be very proud of where they are,” Collins said.
“This is the best atmosphere I have been around in a long time.”

Mets starters are 7-0 with a 1.38 ERA dating to May 25.

Carlos Beltran’s first trip to Citi Field since the Mets traded
him to San Francisco last summer hasn’t included much offense. The
Cardinals were the top-hitting team in the National League when
they arrived, but they sure haven’t showed it.

“It’s a little bit of everything. I think they’re pitching
great. We’re not hitting the ball, we’re not getting on base,”
Beltran said. “Right now it seems like things are not going our
way even though our mentality and our focus is there.”

Not wanting to take any chances, Collins pulled Niese after 96
pitches _ 70 strikes. Four relievers completed the eight-hitter as
St. Louis stranded 12 runners.

Lucas Duda hit an RBI single off Jake Westbrook (4-5) in the
first and Nieuwenhuis drove an 0-2 pitch to right-center for a
two-run homer in the fourth. Niese was aboard after a two-out
single.

It appeared the Cardinals were finally poised to score in the
sixth, but Torres threw out World Series MVP David Freese at the
plate on Chambers’ two-out single.

“That does take a little wind out of your sails,” Matheny
said.

Nieuwenhuis added an RBI single in the sixth and Torres greeted
Maikel Cleto with a two-run triple to make it 6-0. After that, the
only drama that remained was whether the Cardinals could actually
push across a run.

NOTES: Mets RHP Dillon Gee (4-3, 4.69 ERA) was moved up a day to
start Monday’s series finale on his regular four days of rest. Kyle
Lohse (5-1, 3.36 ERA) goes for the Cardinals as they try to avoid a
four-game sweep. … Collins said RHP Chris Young will be called up
to start Tuesday night at Washington, with RHP Miguel Batista
coming off the disabled list to back him up. Young missed most of
last season because of shoulder surgery but re-signed with the Mets
and has been working his way back in the minors. … Former closer
and team captain John Franco was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of
Fame during a 35-minute ceremony on the field before the game.

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

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