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Niese battles despite being under the weather

New York Mets starter Jon Niese pitches to

New York Mets starter Jon Niese pitches to the Miami Marlins during the second inning of a baseball game in Miami. (May 13, 2012) Credit: AP

MIAMI -- Jon Niese has spent the past few days with a fever, body aches, a sore throat and a runny nose. Still, in terms of pitching, he was in the best shape of anyone the Mets sent to the mound Sunday.

He had the flu, but he considered himself lucky he did not have the stomach bug that has hit a few teammates and made Ike Davis a late scratch from the starting lineup Sunday. "Usually,'' Niese said, "being sick kind of makes you focus more."

Niese was plenty focused, and not to blame for the 8-6 loss to the Marlins. He started and pitched six scoreless innings before he was removed for a pinch hitter -- it was Davis, who grounded out -- with runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh and the Mets ahead 2-0.

"I was set to go back out in the seventh, but obviously there was second and third with two outs. That's the thing about the National League, the pitcher always gets pinch hit for," he said after his 99-pitch effort.

Terry Collins said he took into account Niese's health, adding that without any extra days off in a 20-game stretch, he was looking to preserve the lefthander's strength. In the back of the manager's mind, though, he wanted to squeeze out extra runs because a 2-0 lead does not look safe in the hands of the current bullpen.

If that is what he was thinking, he was so right. Ramon Ramirez instantly gave up the lead after facing only two batters -- Emilio Bonifacio laced a triple to right-centerfield and John Buck rocked a home run to left-center.

Jon Rauch pitched a perfect eighth, but Frank Francisco made a hash of the ninth. Bonifacio got his second consecutive triple. Then Manny Acosta allowed a tying sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes and a monstrous game-ending homer by Giancarlo Stanton.

"No excuses," Acosta said through his interpreter, bullpen coach Ricky Bones. "It's my fault. Sometimes it's hard to swallow, but things happen in the game."

Of course, it was the one who literally found it hard to swallow, Niese, with the sore throat, who was the strongest.

"That's baseball, really," he said. "We know we've been playing some pretty good baseball. Some games get away from us. We've just got to keep battling. We definitely have the right team to bounce back and keep winning."


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