Monday, June 4, 2012

Game #54: Mets 6, Cardinals 1

Winning pitcher Jon Niese congratulates Kirk Nieuwenhuis after the outfielder's two-run homer. (NYDailyNews.com)
Faced with the even-more impossible task of following a no-hitter and a complete game shutout, Jon Niese carved out his own place in this weekend of weekends in Flushing.

Niese struck out 10 batters in 6 shutout innings and the Kirk Nieuwenhuis-Andres Torres 1-2 punch provided the pop as the Mets cliched the series against the Cardinals 6-1 on national television.

The Good Stuff:
  • It was just about a lose-lose situation for Jon Niese tonight. On a weekend when Mets fans had seen Johan Santana pitch the team's first no-hitter and R.A. Dickey deliver a performance just as impressive, not to mention the Mets Hall of Fame induction of one of the greatest pitchers in franchise history (John Franco), Niese had to go out and continue the streak against the defending world champion Cardinals on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Remarkably, Jonathan found a way to get a big win.
    • Niese tossed 6 scoreless innings, allowing 6 hits, walking 1, and striking out a career-high 10 Cardinals. New York was in their black uniforms for the first time all year tonight in honor of Franco, and black was the color St. Louis was seeing all night long.
  • Niese extended the Met starters' scoreless streak to a mind-boggling 24 innings. Bobby Parnell got it to 25 with a scoreless 7th, and Frank Francisco struck out 2 in a scoreless 9th.
  • The Mets went up quickly in the 1st as Andres Torres doubled and came home on a Lucas Duda single. In the 4th, Jon Niese knocked out his second hit of the game, and three pitches later Kirk Nieuwenhuis blasted a home run to right center.
  • Nieuwenhuis and Torres broke it open in the 6th when Kirk singled home a run and Torres grounded a triple to the corner in right field to score two more. When the lights went out on tonight's game, Kirk & Andres combined to go 6-9 with 3 runs and 5 RBIs.
    • Torres also made an impact with his arm: in the 6th inning, he gunned down David Freese at the plate to preserve the shutout and get Niese out of a jam in his final frame.
The Bad Stuff:
  • Elvin Ramirez made his major league debut in the top of the 8th, and while his 0.65 minor league ERA implied there were only a few guys he couldn't get out, all those guys were in attendance tonight. Ramirez's first pitch was a hard single up the middle and his second lined off his leg before he could control it for the out. After striking out Matt Adams, he gave up an RBI single to Adron Chambers to break the scoreless streak and earn a hook in favor of Tim Byrdak, who got his man for the last out of the 8th. Ramirez's run in 2/3 of an inning equates to 13.50, definitely not pretty. "Hey rookie, welcome to the big show."
Final Analysis:
When was the last time the Mets had a weekend this fun? Flawless starting pitching, great offense, and all against the defending world champions. These three games were about as Amazin' as they possibly get, and the result was a series win, at least 7 wins in an 11-game homestand (they can go for 8 and their first 4-game sweep of STL since 1986), and a tie atop the NL East with the Nationals and Marlins. One third of the way through the season, the New York Mets are 31-23, 8 games over .500 for the first time in almost two years, and in first place. Dare I say it, the Mets are playing like...contenders. "Believe it, amigo!"

MM

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