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Friday, July 27, 2012

Preview: Game 100 - Mets at D-Backs - Niese tries to keep it going

New York Mets (48-51) at Arizona Diamondbacks (49-50) 9:40 PM ET
SeasonRd/HmLast StartLast 3 App
J. Niese (L) 19 7-4 3.595.23-23.107/22LADND7.0830-121.04.71
J. Collmenter (R) 8 2-2 3.825.22-24.607/22HOUW6.0722-015.01.80

Matt Harvey provided the New York Mets with the lift they sorely needed on Thursday. Now Jon Niese will attempt to give the badly slumping club its first winning streak in nearly a month when he takes the mound for tonight's second test of a four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks from Chase Field.

A string of four consecutive victories from June 27-30 had the Mets squarely in contention in the National League playoff race, but the team fell well off the pace after it dropped 15 of its first 19 games in July. New York had lost six in a row and 12 of its last 13 contests entering Thursday's opener of this set, but returned to the win column last night thanks to a dazzling debut by Harvey.

The highly touted pitching prospect fanned 11 Diamondbacks over 5 1/3 shutout innings in his first big league start, setting a new Mets record for strikeouts in an initial outing and leading New York to a 3-1 triumph.

Harvey's 11 K's were also the most by a pitcher in an MLB debut since Washington's Stephen Strasburg racked up 14 strikeouts in his much-anticipated first start against Pittsburgh on June 8, 2010. The 23-year-old, New York's first-round pick in the 2010 Draft, also impressed at the plate, collecting a double and a single in his first two at-bats.

He had tremendous composure," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Harvey. "The velocity through the first four innings, you could tell he was pretty juiced up. He's lived up to exactly what everybody's talked about."

Onetime Diamondback Scott Hairston gave Harvey some early support with a two- run double off Arizona All-Star Wade Miley in the first inning, while Andres Torres tripled in the fourth and came home on Rob Johnson's sacrifice fly for a 3-0 advantage.

Arizona finally got on the board with a run off Mets reliever Jon Rauch in the bottom of the eighth and put two men on against Bobby Parnell in the ninth, but the New York closer struck out Jason Kubel with the tying run aboard to end the contest.

"We needed to hang in there, which we did," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. "We had our opportunities, which we weren't able to capitalize on."

The Diamondbacks have now lost two straight after matching a season best with five consecutive wins and saw its deficit in the NL Wild Card standings increase to 5 1/2 games.

They'll try to bounce back tonight behind Josh Collmenter, who pitched well in his return to the team's rotation this past Sunday. The right-hander held Houston to two runs while walking one and scattering seven hits over six innings, improving his season record to 2-2 and lowering his earned run average to 3.82.

A surprise 10-game winner for the Diamondbacks as a rookie a year ago, Collmenter has shuffled between a starting role and the bullpen this season. He's faced the Mets twice previously in relief, including a scoreless three- inning stint at Citi Field back on May 5.

Niese has been one of New York's more consistent pitchers, with the lefty having compiled a 7-4 mark with a 3.59 ERA in 19 starts. He's 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA over his last six outings and tossed at least seven innings in five straight appearances.

The 25-year-old is coming off back-to-back no-decisions against Washington and Los Angeles, but limited the Nationals to only one run over seven frames in a July 17 assignment and allowed three runs through seven innings versus the Dodgers five days later.

Niese has not faced Arizona this season, but is just 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in three career starts against the D-Backs. In his lone trip to the Chase Field hill, he was touched for three runs in a five-inning no-decision on July 21, 2010.

The Mets are 3-1 against Arizona so far in 2012, having taken two of three bouts with the Diamondbacks in New York from May 4-6.

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