NEW YORK -- The way Ryan Vogelsong was pitching and the way the New York Mets were hitting, this wasn't a game the Mets were going to win. Probably not from the time Jonathon Niese's throwing error led to a two-run second inning, and definitely not from the time Niese's pitching (and in his mind a mental error) led to a three-run seventh.
It ended up as a 5-1 Mets loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, and there sure weren't many positives for the Mets in this one.
But Niese did make it to the ninth inning, for the first time this season.
It's more than something, in Mets manager Terry Collins' mind. As Niese sailed through this game with a low pitch count, Collins became determined to put his left-handed starter as deep into the game as he could.
The thinking was that in Niese's first two starts back from the disabled list, he had pitched only 11 innings combined. And the thinking was that if the Mets are to make the last two months of the season interesting, they're going to need tough innings from Niese.
"We've got to get this guy lengthened out, so it's not an effort for him to pitch the seventh," Collins said.
In a game where the Mets accomplished little else, at least they accomplished that. Niese didn't depart until he gave up a Brandon Crawford single to start the ninth, and he left having allowed three earned runs in eight innings-plus -- on only 87 pitches.
"I thought it was really good for Jon to be out there late in the game," Collins said.
What wasn't good for the Mets was that they had only two hits against Vogelsong, a ground-ball single by Juan Lagares in the sixth and a leadoff home run from Lucas Duda in the eighth. Vogelsong had never before thrown a pitch in the ninth inning in 132 previous big-league starts (his lone complete game was a rain-shortened six-inning shutout in 2011), but he sailed through nine against the Mets.
"It wasn't really uncomfortable at-bats," said Chris Young. "It was like one of those comfortable oh-fers. But you never knew what he was going to throw in any situation. If you sat back, you were behind in the count. If you were too aggressive, you made early outs.
"Either way, he was tough."
The same was true for Niese, but his throwing error in the second inning led to two runs. And after Crawford's one-out triple in the seventh, Niese hit Vogelsong with a pitch and then left a 1-2 fastball up to Hunter Pence, whose triple made it 4-0.
New York Mets
"I should have buried one," Niese said. "I did him a favor by leaving a pitch up. In this league you can't make those mistakes, especially when the opposing pitcher is throwing like that."
Niese was only pitching the seventh inning because Collins opted against pinch-hitting for him in the sixth. The Mets had a runner on second with one out in a 2-0 game, but Niese's pitch count was at 58 and the manager decided he would rather push his starter deeper into the game.
As Collins pointed out, Niese did hit the ball hard, a line drive caught at first base by Michael Morse. It turned into an inning-ending double play when Lagares made a baserunning mistake and was doubled off second base.
It was that kind of night for the Mets, not an encouraging beginning to August.
But at least Niese made it to the ninth inning. That's something.