Jon Niese’s ineffectiveness must turnaround in a hurry…
In the middle of all of the joy and significance of the Mets 8-5 win over the Nationals on Monday afternoon in Washington, there was in fact a very sore spot which the club has to find a way to deal with.
Jon Niese allowed five runs – all in the fourth inning – on seven hits with three walks and only one strikeout.
Four of the five runs came on a grand slam to Wilson Ramos with the bases loaded and nobody out, marking the third consecutive start in which Niese has allowed five runs in a single inning.
“I promise you guys I am not insane because I have been making the same mistakes the last three games trying to get different results,” Niese explained in frustration on Monday afternoon. “It’s not working, but you know the good news is my stuff, I thought, was really good today. One pitch changed the game.
In fairness, his stuff wasn’t exactly good on the pitch to Ramos, which was nothing more than a hanging breaking ball at the knees which was smoked well over the left field wall, evaporating a three run lead with the snap of a finger and putting the Mets in a sudden hole.
But that’s been a recurring theme for Niese over these last four starts. Instead of that good, downward movement on his cutter, curve and two-seamer, his pitches have been moving horizontally across the strike zone without a lot of life, and the opposition – particularly the right-handed hitters – are getting real good looks on the ball. He’s unable to get those pitches inside and down to induce groundball outs.
The four home runs he’s allowed over his last four starts are an indication of those troubles, as are the 23 earned runs and 42 baserunners in only a 19 2/3 inning span.
“I think Travis d’Arnaud, and [Dan Warthen] and I collectively are going to get together and we’re going to right the wrongs. We’re going to get this thing right,” the left-hander proclaimed on Monday.
He did before, so it stands to reason he can – and will – again.
Recall his rocky road in late May when he struggled in a similar fashion. Like this slump, Niese’s pitches were too horizontal, and the opposition was easily getting too much lift on them as a result.
The difference of course, was there was a lot of season left for Niese to right his ship. Now, when the games matter the most, the pressure is peaking and the clock is ticking, it’s a lot more difficult to break out of such a slump.
But Terry Collins is going to afford Niese an opportunity to get his act together.
“I am going to send him back out there,” Collins said after Monday’s win.
The Mets really need Niese to get going again, especially with the likelihood Tuesday night could be the last time Matt Harvey pitches for a while. The Mets still have plenty of depth for sure, but scratching Harvey certainly lessens the intimidation of the Mets greatest strength down the stretch, and certainly in the postseason.
And if Niese is going to be this ineffective, the club is very vulnerable in tight ballgames.
As such, there’s pressure on Niese to get this right as a result.