SEATTLE - Jonathon Niese rested his hand on his hip and softly swept the dirt with his foot, waiting for pitching coach Dan Warthen to reach the mound. Over the stadium loudspeakers, the old Shirelles song blared: "Mama said there'd be days like this . . . "
The Mets lefthander hoped to pick up where he'd left off little more than two weeks ago, when a strained left shoulder sent him to the disabled list. Instead, in Monday nght's 5-2 loss to the Mariners, he looked every bit like a pitcher knocking off the rust.
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"I could tell I hadn't pitched for a while," Niese said. "I left a lot of balls over the plate."
Though he battled to last six innings, Niese (5-5) surrendered four runs and 11 hits, including a solo homer by Mike Zunino that landed in Safeco Field's distant upper deck in leftfield.
The good vibes that had coated the Mets during the All-Star break -- which interrupted their best stretch of baseball -- have slowly eroded.
They wanted to hit the ground running in the second half and perhaps sway general manager Sandy Alderson to approach the trade deadline with immediate improvement in mind. But the Mets have dropped three in a row and have fallen to 1-3 on their 10-game road trip.
Niese had allowed three or fewer runs in 21 consecutive starts. In franchise history, that ranked behind only Dwight Gooden's run of 29 games. But on a night when his velocity dipped at times, Niese's streak came to an end in the fourth, when Willie Bloomquist's ground-rule double gave the Mariners their fourth run. Ackley and Bloomquist each had three of Seattle's 14 hits.
Meanwhile, four runs might be a week's worth for the suddenly slumping Mets, who have scored only three times in their last three games.
David Wright didn't bother to hide his frustration in the seventh. With a runner on first and a 3-and-1 pitch coming from Dominic Leone, Wright lifted a lazy fly to center. With that, he angrily spiked his bat into the ground, lamenting an opportunity wasted.
The Mets didn't fare much better against Mariners starter Roenis Elias (8-8). Until a left forearm cramp forced Elias out of the game with one out in the sixth, he had allowed only one run on Wright's RBI single and struck out eight.
Travis d'Arnaud nearly turned the momentum in the sixth with the Mets trailing 4-1. Just after Elias walked off the field with his injury, Leone made a mistake to d'Arnaud, his first batter. D'Arnaud's blast looked to have just enough to clear the leftfield wall for what would have been his fourth home run since he returned from his demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Upon reaching the fence, though, Dustin Ackley timed his leap perfectly. For a moment, it was unclear whether he had come up with the ball, but when he rose to his feet, he fished the ball out of his glove. The flash of white pushed the hushed crowd into a sustained ovation.
Said d'Arnaud: "It was a great play."