MILWAUKEE - Jonathon Niese had come unraveled the inning before, squandering an early lead because he couldn't slam the door. So with the Mets trailing in the sixth against the Brewers Saturday night and the pitcher's spot due up with a runner on third, manager Terry Collins pulled his starter.
Following the Mets' 5-2 loss to the Brewers, Niese didn't bother hiding his dismay at being taken out of the game after throwing only 89 pitches.
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"I thought I should have been up there anyway . . . but Terry makes those decisions," he said. "Those are out of my control. I could have went one or two more."
The early hook was just part of a frustrating night for Niese, who watched pinch hitter Eric Campbell strike out, stranding a runner on third. Niese had entered the fifth inning with a 2-0 cushion. He ended it down a run, the victim of a three-run barrage, all with two outs.
Jean Segura scored the Brewers' first run when he swiped second base, reached third on a fly out, and scored on a wild pitch. Jonathan Lucroy tied it by rocketing an RBI double off the wall in right-centerfield. Ryan Braun ripped a single to score Lucroy and put the Brewers ahead.
"I don't know if his concentration got broken when the ball got by the catcher and the run scored," Collins said. "After that, balls just started coming up in the zone a little bit. He certainly deserved to go back out. We've been having a tough time scoring, so I thought we had to hit in the sixth."
Instead, the Brewers scored twice more against reliever Carlos Torres. And one night after blowing a save, Brewers closer and former Met Francisco Rodriguez retired the side in order.
With that, the Mets enter Sunday's series finale against the Brewers needing a victory to emerge from this critical 10-game road trip at 5-5. In some ways, the Mets should be grateful for the chance.
In nine games during the road swing, the Mets have been outscored, 36-20, thanks to a punchless offense that has averaged just 2.2 runs per game since the All-Star break.
Niese allowed three runs and five hits in five innings, but through the first four, he appeared to be in command. It was a far cry from his previous outing when the Mariners battered him for four runs and 11 hits in six innings.
The Mets even provided him with a 2-0 lead with help from Curtis Granderson, whose cold stretch reached 0-for-18 until the third inning.
Granderson led off with a double. Three batters later, Lucas Duda collected his team-leading 54th RBI with a single to centerfield.
In the fifth, Granderson needed just one swing to double the Mets' lead, lining a solo home run down the rightfield line to make it 2-0. It was Granderson's first homer since July 8, a stretch of 54 plate appearances.
"You kind of like your chances in that situation," Collins said.
Then came Niese's meltdown.
Mark Reynolds blooped a single in front of centerfielder Chris Young, and on the mound Niese appeared to sulk. His mood only soured further as the inning spiraled out of his control.
"They started attacking early there, I made some mistakes," Niese said. "I paid for it again."