Niese solid as Mets get even on road trip

Jon Niese. Jon Niese. Photo Credit: AP

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PITTSBURGH -- After his last outing -- a particularly poor one -- the Mets held an intervention with Jon Niese.

The 25-year-old lefthander was called into a meeting with pitching coach Dan Warthen, bullpen coach Ricky Bones and veteran pitchers Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

The message: Prepare better for your starts. Stop trying to get by just on your stuff.

Apparently, Niese listened, because he dominated the Pirates yesterday in a 3-1 win at PNC Park.

Niese (3-2) went 72/3 innings and allowed one run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He barely used his signature curveball. Instead, he mowed down the weak-hitting Pirates with fastballs, cutters and sinkers.

"He pitched a great, great game," said manager Terry Collins, who was not in the meeting. "It was a much-needed outing for him."

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With the win, the Mets concluded a 3-3 road trip before beginning their longest homestand of the season (11 games) Thursday night against San Diego.

Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and David Wright drove in the Mets' runs.

In his last start, Niese was awful. He allowed eight runs on eight hits with four walks in three innings against the Blue Jays. The Mets lost, 14-5, and had to use catcher Rob Johnson to pitch the final inning.

Johnson stayed behind the plate Wednesday.

"Rob does a great job calling games," Niese said. "He does a great job of reading hitters and what they're trying to do based on that. I do pay attention to it, but sometimes I get so focused on executing a pitch that it's kind of tough. But it's something I'm definitely working on and something that definitely works. I did a lot more preparation this go-round."

The Mets gave Niese a contract extension in April for five years and $25.8 million. So they have a vested interest in seeing him become more than just a thrower.

"I think we all feel that Jon has great stuff," Warthen said. "Sometimes he trusts his stuff more than realizing he has to pitch. I thought he pitched as well as using stuff. Understanding the hitters, knowing the hitters, seeing their faces, seeing their swings -- I'm really encouraging him to look at the video . . . Without even having a game report, you should have an idea how to pitch a guy. And he's starting to understand that."

The Mets gave Niese just enough run support in the series' rubber game. Duda had an RBI single in the first against Charlie Morton (2-5). Nieuwenhuis (sacrifice fly) and Wright (double) each drove in a run in the fifth to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.

Wright, who entered the game batting .403, went 1-for-4. His average is .399.

The Pirates got on the board in the sixth when Josh Harrison doubled and scored on a one-out single by Andrew McCutchen. But Niese got Neil Walker on the next pitch to ground into an inning-ending double play.

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The Pirates' Clint Barmes had a bloop single to right to open the eighth inning. Two outs later, Niese walked Gorkys Hernandez and Collins called on Bobby Parnell against McCutchen, the Pirates' best player.

The Mets almost got out of the inning when Johnson threw to first in attempt to pick off the rookie Hernandez. The throw appeared to beat him, but it got past Ike Davis as both runners advanced. The error was charged to Davis.

Parnell shrugged it off and struck out McCutchen on a 98-mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning. Frank Francisco threw a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 12th save.

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