Jon Niese made his third relief appearance of the week in the first game of the Mets' doubleheader on Saturday and pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a 3-1 loss to the Nationals.

Niese allowed a leadoff single to Clint Robinson, who was out trying to stretch it into a double, and walked Matt den Dekker but picked him off first base.

Manager Terry Collins said Niese has to learn to be himself in a relief role and not worry about throwing strikes early in the count.

"Jon Niese is a perpetual strike-thrower," Collins said. "When you come out of the bullpen, hitters are swinging early. Starting pitchers work the zone a little bit more. Relievers come out and want to get strike one.

"That's where he's been hit because strike one is on the plate someplace. We're trying to get him as much work as we can to get him to understand, 'You can be yourself.' We talked about it the other day. I said, 'Don't be afraid to use something [besides a fastball] and don't be afraid to miss with it because you can throw strikes. If you fall behind, you fall behind.' "

Tejada moving up

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Wilmer Flores sat out Saturday's doubleheader with a case of strep throat. Collins said there's a strong possibility that Ruben Tejada, who started at shortstop in both games, will man that spot in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

"He's had a very good year offensively," Collins said of Tejada. "We all know he's got great hands. He's won a lot of games for us. As we get into the playoffs, we have not decided who's going to play shortstop, but Ruben made a good run at the end. Don't be surprised if you look up and he's the shortstop on Friday."