Jonathon Niese was called up from Triple-A Buffalo to replace the injured Fernando Nieve in the starting rotation. If he continues to pitch like he did tonight, he might not have to go back anytime soon.
After a rough first inning, Niese settled down and pitched beautifully for six additional innings. The offense came alive and the long ball returned to the Mets as they defeated the Astros 10-3 at Minute Maid Park.
After three first inning runs against Astros’ starter Russ Ortiz, Houston came back with a run of their own by drawing two walks followed by an RBI single by Pudge Rodriguez. That was the extent of the Astros’ offense tonight as Niese dominated them for the next six innings.
The Mets launched three home runs to support their neophyte starter. Solo homers by Omir Santos and David Wright (the sixth for each player and Wright’s first home run since June 30 in Milwaukee) and a three-run homer by Jeff Francoeur (his seventh) were more than enough for Niese, who pitched seven strong innings, giving up one run on four hits, while walking two batters and striking out three. The power surge by the Mets over the past two games (half of their eight home runs hit in July have come in the past two games) is enough to put Con Edison on their toes.
Jeff Francoeur continues to swing a red-hot bat since being traded to the Mets two weeks ago. He now has 12 RBI in his 11 games as a Met, to go along with a sizzling .333 batting average (15 hits in 45 at-bats). The man he was traded for, Ryan Church, is only hitting .200 (6 for 30) with four RBI.
Once Niese’s night was done, Sean Green pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth, giving up a two-run homer to Hunter Pence before getting out of the inning without any more runs scoring. However, he did need 30 pitches to get through the inning in a non-save situation. Hopefully, the Mets can repeat tonight’s fireworks in tomorrow’s series finale so that Rodriguez won’t have to be pressed into service again.
Although the offense lit up the scoreboard, Jonathon Niese was the big star against the Astros. His dominant performance, especially after his rough first inning, gave the Mets something to smile about. With a few more outings like this one, Niese may find his way onto the staff permanently.
Tomorrow is the rubber game of the series, with Livan Hernandez going up against Brian Moehler. If the Mets can continue to slug the ball like they did tonight, Livan might not need to be at his best to pick up a win. Of course, a Niese-like performance by Hernandez would be quite welcome as well.