The Mets lost their second game in a row to the Cincinnati Reds after once again falling behind 3-0 in the first inning. Unlike Monday night, the Mets' lineup was unable to come back and tie the game, and the final result was 4-0. As boring and depressing as this game was, there was one positive to take away: Jon Niese's strong performance after a shaky first inning. Niese's strikeouts have been way down in 2013, so his season-high seven punch-outs in six innings tonight are an encouraging sign that he might bust out of this early-season slump.
Niese looked good against the first two batters of the game. He induced Derrick Robinson to fly out and struck out Zack Cozart, and needed just seven total pitches to do it. Niese then got ahead 2-2 against the great Joey Votto. Things were going well! Unfortunately, the next six batters, including Votto, all reached base. Votto walked, Brandon Phillips singled, and Jay Bruce walked to load the bases. Todd Frazier came up next and hit a hard, but playable, ground ball to David Wright. However, the ball skipped past Wright, allowing two runs to score. Donald Lutz came up next and reached on an infield single that Daniel Murphy could have made a better play on. That re-loaded the bases for Devin Mesoraco, who drew a walk to score a run, appearing to demoralize Niese in the process. Our Opening Day starter rebounded though, as he struck out opposing pitcher Mike Leake to end the nightmarish inning. Niese threw 48 pitches in the frame and long-man Collin McHugh was warming up in the bullpen.
Despite the ugly first inning, there were signs that maybe this wouldn't be a catastrophic night for Niese. He was throwing hard. He threw first-pitch strikes. Good hitters (Votto and Bruce) swung-and-missed at his pitches. Niese continued these trends for the next five innings and managed a pretty good final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R (none earned), 3 BB, 7 K. Maybe that line would have looked even better if Wright could have made the play on Frazier. He didn't quite pitch like Matt Harvey -- few do -- but consider me embiggen'd by Niese tonight.
Niese's counterpart Leake enjoyed himself tonight. He threw seven shutout innings, striking out four and allowing just five total baserunners. The Mets' best threat against Leake came in the fourth inning, when John Buck hit an opposite field double with two outs and Lucas Duda on first base. Third-base coach Tim Teufel put up the stop sign for the gigantic Duda, declining to take a risk with two outs and the putrid Ike Davis on deck. Teufel probably should have taken the risk; Ike proceeded to ground out to end the inning. The Mets' offense went into hibernation mode the rest of the way.
LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice each threw a scoreless, stress-free inning in relief of Niese. McHugh gave up a home run to Mesoraco on the first pitch of the ninth inning to cap the scoring. Final score: 4-0 Reds.
The final game of the series is Wednesday afternoon at 1:10 pm, featuring a great pitching matchup of Matt Harvey vs Mat Latos. Be sure to tune in, for Harvey doesn't pitch again until next Tuesday.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big losers: Jon Niese -14.1% (as pitcher), -8.4%
Teh aw3s0mest play: double in the fourth inning +4.0%
Teh sux0rest play: error in the first inning, two runs score, -17.3%
Total pitcher WPA: -12.7%
Total batter WPA: -37.3%
GWRBI!: N/A! First run scored on a David Wright error