Niese 'worst,' 'dumbest,' solid over stretch

PITTSBURGH -- Jonathon Niese described a three-inning span in colorful fashion to pitching coach Dan Warthen after completing his outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

“I think I was the worst pitcher in the world in the fourth, and in the fifth the dumbest pitcher, and then went back to where I was, how I started,” Niese said following the 5-3 win in which he logged six innings.

Staked to a 5-0 lead, he totally lost control in the fourth, walking three straight batters, including two with the bases loaded to force in runs. Niese then rebounded to strike out Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco to strand three baserunners.

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Jon Niese rebounded from a shaky fourth inning to earn Saturday's win.

“That fourth was scary,” Niese said. “There are not too many times pitchers feel that way, when you’re trying like heck to throw a strike, and it’s a bad feeling. But I was able to get through it. Our offense did a great job getting that early lead. It helped us secure that win.”

How did Niese regain his control?

“You just kind of take a deep breath,” he said. “Mechanically, I think I was just trying to rush the ball to the plate. The at-bat against Marte I was just trying to get a strike. And then once I got a strike I was able to relax and keep my weight back and throw a quality strike for the second one, and was able to put him away. I’m just glad I got out of that, because it could have got ugly there quick.”

Niese described himself as dumb the following inning because he deviated from the game plan with two outs and surrendered three straight hits, including a run-scoring single by Neil Walker that pulled the Pirates within two runs.

“I blame myself, especially against those guys,” Niese said. “I was able to find out how to get them out early in the game. I kind of went away from that three consecutive batters, which was the cause for that run in the fifth. I went out of my game plan there, but went back to it. I don’t like giving up an extra run like that, but it was enough for the win. So it was good enough.”

Niese improved to 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA. The won-loss record would be better, but the Mets have not put up big offensive numbers for him until an 11-run outburst in Miami his last start and then the five runs on Saturday against the Pirates.

“It’s come at a perfect time, when I’m not pitching so well,” Niese said. “I’m just thankful our guys have been able to get runs on the board. It really helps out pitching, too.”

Niese has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in 20 straight starts, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history.

He is generally pleased with his body of work this season, although he did note he would like to see more zip on his fastball. He entered Saturday averaging 88.7 mph this season, down from his career average of 90.0 mph.

“I think my velocity is not where I want it to be,” Niese said. “But I think that will come. I think that the All-Star break and with rest, that will come. I’ve been able to have a lot more control than in years’ past and been able to put it where I want it a lot more.”