Jon Niese joined the Coors Field adventure on Saturday, and intends to forget it
As the visiting pitcher in Coors Field, the goal typically is to give the club enough innings to get to the middle or late portion of the game, and simple allow as few runs as possible.
And for Jon Niese, he tried to do just that. Unfortunately, that still meant he allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies on a cool Saturday night in Denver.
“You’ve just got to minimize the damage,” the left-hander said. “My sinker, some were good, some were bad. It’s not an easy place to be consistent. You’ve just got to battle through it and minimize the damage.”
Niese came into the game with a 3.50 ERA. After 5 1/3 innings, it was 3.80. He now has a 7.94 ERA in four career starts at Coors Field. But he managed to earn his eighth win of the year despite the rough waters he navigated, his third win in as many decision since his last loss.
“It’s good our offense scored enough runs for us tonight,” he said.
Niese was very much a part of the club’s second 14-run outburst in as many nights. He drove in two runs with an opposite field single as part of an eight-run third inning for the Mets.
“I loved it,” Niese said about his hit. “And I loved that I was a part of it.”
As for his pitching, Niese didn’t even try to boil his struggles down to any one thing in particular on Saturday night, other than the fact it was Coors Field and anything typically goes except for solid outings from a pitcher.
“You’ve just got to forget it, not worry about the results here,” Niese explained. “I’m glad we got the win. The ERA climbed up a little bit, but I’m just going to have to battle my next few starts to get it back down.”
Niese actually did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground on Saturday night, utilizing his two-seamer, curve and cutter pretty evenly throughout the outing. Yes, he gave up a couple of scorchers, and as is the case with most pitchers there, he just couldn’t get that good movement on his pitches which resulted in a lot of flatness through the strike zone.
But there were also some flyballs and popups he allowed which found grass that just wouldn’t have in any other ballpark.
For instance, in the second inning in particular, he allowed a bloop hit to Matt McBride which fell just into fair territory in right field. But because the outfield is so huge at Coors Field and Curtis Granderson had to cover so much ground, he just never got there and McBride reached on a ball which gets caught anywhere else.
Then, after Niese walked Nick Hundley, Kyle Parker launched a three-run triple over Juan Lagares’ head in center field.
“I’m not surprised,” Juan Uribe said about the wild game. “It’s in Colorado.”
Now certainly, Lagares probably should have caught the ball, and just might have a year ago. It’s been a recurring theme for Lagares with balls just being out of his reach both left and right as well as over his head. Of course, these aren’t exactly routine plays, but certainly not beyond Lagares’ scope of difficulty in terms of what he’s expected to do.
Niese allowed a couple of walks thanks to his two-seamer just not having the usual action on it thanks in part to the elevation.
But in that park, walks lead to an inevitable doom for any starting pitcher.
“[Coors Field] tests your nerves,” manager Terry Collins said after the game. “They are interesting games here, for sure.”
That’s one way to put it. Exhausting, adventurous, fragile are all other words used to describe these games at Coors Field.
No lead is safe, be it a three-run or a ten-run lead. The Mets have proven that. A five run lead might as well be a three-run lead, evident by the fact Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia have been assigned the task of protecting those fragile leads late in the first two games. Fortunately, they’ve picked up their pitching staff in the first two games, outpacing Colorado’s offense and pitching just a shade better than the Rockies as well.