The manager decided to stick with Niese, though. The pitcher then struck out on three pitches. "I thought we had a lot of game left," Collins said.
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There was nothing left for the Mets after that opportunity. They didn't get another hit and only had one baserunner over the final four innings against four Marlins relievers, a 4-2 loss showing that a switch in the fifth inning might have made the difference.
Niese (8-6) only had one troublesome inning of the six he pitched, but the Marlins' four-run fourth inning was enough to send the Mets to their eighth straight home loss.
Niese wasn't hit hard, but he hung curveballs to Carlos Lee and John Buck; Lee singled in a run and Buck doubled in two. Giancarlo Stanton, in his first game back for the Marlins after a stay on the disabled list, produced the other run of the inning with a sacrifice fly that scored Jose Reyes. The former Met increased his MLB-best hit streak to 25 games after a squib single in the fourth.
"It's been my Achilles' heel all season, giving up big innings," Niese said. "I made some pretty bad pitches."
The Mets loaded the bases in the fourth off Marlins spot starter Wade LeBlanc thanks to a walk, a hit and a blown call by first-base umpire Paul Emmel, who mistakenly called Niese safe on a bouncer to first though LeBlanc clearly beat Niese to the bag.
But Ruben Tejada, Reyes' replacement at shortstop and one of the Mets' hottest hitters of late, popped weakly to second to end that chance.
Daniel Murphy led off the fifth with a home run off LeBlanc, who was promptly removed after 85 pitches for former Yankee Chad Gaudin. He got two quick outs but then gave up three straight singles to Jason Bay, pinch hitter Ike Davis and Andres Torres, whose single scored Bay to cut the deficit to two runs.
Josh Thole walked and, while Niese waited in the on-deck circle and Jordany Valdespin swung a bat in the far end of the dugout, Collins mulled over his choices. "We'd already burned one guy [Davis] and we were down a guy on the bench [Rob Johnson, who was able to catch but not hit with a hand injury]," Collins said. "I thought I could get more out of Niese. It didn't work."
The Mets' bullpen actually did its job exceptionally well, with Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta and Jon Rauch combining to retire nine of 10 batters faced. Collins did have to come out to the mound after Parnell's first batter when the hard-throwing Mets reliever clocked in at just 89 mph on the radar gun.
"I didn't know what it was, but that's not him," Collins said. "I came out to see if he was OK. If he wasn't, he was coming out."
Parnell returned to the high 90s for his next two outs.
But it was the Marlins' pen that had an even better night. Former All-Star Carlos Zambrano (7-9) got four outs, former Met and deposed Marlins closer Heath Bell got two outs in the eighth and new closer Steve Cishek struck out Murphy and David Wright before getting Valdespin on a foul pop to the catcher to end it and drop the Mets under .500 at home (26-27) for the first time this season.