The way Jon Niese has been pitching lately, it seems as if a life-changing event might be the only thing capable of preventing him from delivering a quality start.
Continuing his strong run, Niese allowed two earned runs and six hits in seven innings Monday night, striking out five and walking none in the Mets' 4-2 win over Colorado. It was the 11th time in 12 starts that Niese has pitched at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs. The outlier came on July 24 against the Dodgers, when his status before the game was in question after his wife went into labor.
"Besides that one against L.A., [when] there were some extracurricular things going on, I've felt pretty good," said Niese, who improved to 7-9 with a 3.46 ERA. He has a 2.75 ERA in his last 12 starts dating to June 5.
Until recently, this good run had come despite a pedestrian strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.01 in nine starts from June 5 to July 24, below the National League average of 2.71). In his last three outings, though, he has struck out 17 and walked two for a 8.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"I'm preparing for each game, watching video," Niese said of his recent approach. "We've got a good plan for each game, and all we're trying to do is execute."
Niese was exceptional On Monday night, aside from a difficult fourth inning. Four of the six hits he allowed came during the frame. D.J. LeMahieu led off with a single and Carlos Gonzalez hit a line-drive home run to left-center that put Colorado ahead 2-1.
The Rockies then put runners on first and second with one out before Niese struck out Drew Stubbs and got Brandon Barnes to ground out. "You make a couple of mistakes and you just have to limit damage," he said.
Manager Terry Collins said that in the past, Niese might have allowed such an inning to spiral out of control. "Sometimes those innings can get away from Jon,'' he said. "Today [it] didn't."
After the fourth, Niese retired all nine batters he faced before giving way to a pinch hitter during the Mets' seventh-inning rally.
"I love Jon Niese, because he competes," Collins said. "He never wants to come out of a game. He doesn't care what the score is. He doesn't care how he's doing. He doesn't want to come out of a game. I argue with him every night . . . He doesn't care who's getting the headlines as long as he gets the ball. He's pitching very, very well."