Mets morning briefing 5.2.12

Jon Niese surrendered a two-run homer to Jed Lowrie and three-run homer to Chris Snyder over the first two innings and the Mets lost to Houston, 6-3, Tuesday night. Heading into this afternoon's Chris Schwinden versus Wandy Rodriguez matchup, Houston already has secured its first series win since a season-opening series against the Colorado Rockies. The Astros since had lost six straight series.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis could become the second National League Rookie of the Month winner in franchise history, joining Justin Turner, when the April award is announced today.

Wednesday's news reports:

Terry Collins had no regrets about lifting Niese for pinch hitter Lucas Duda in the top of the fourth with the Mets having clawed within three runs and a pair of Mets on base. Duda struck out, ending the threat, and Collins was forced to turn to Miguel Batista. Read game recaps in the Times, Post, Record, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.

David Wright's .389 average in April matched the fifth-best in franchise history for that month, trailing only John Milner (.488 in 1976), Ed Kranepool (.418, 1965), Cleon Jones (.410, 1969) and Derek Bell (.400, 2000). Wright finished the month trailing only Matt Kemp's .417 average with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League this season. Wright achieved the gaudy production despite suffering a broken right pinkie on a headfirst slide back into first base on April 9.

Brian Costa in the Journal examines Wright's surge. Wright tells him about the finger fracture, which only cost the third baseman only three games: "When it first happened, I thought there would be no chance that I'd be able to play as quickly as I did." Wright said.

Wright's success coincides with him reducing his pronounced leg kick and lowering his hands. He also appears closer to the plate than at any time since he was beaned by San Francisco's Matt Cain on Aug. 15, 2009. Writes Costa:

In April, Wright hit more than 30 percent of his batted balls for line drives, which would represent a career high and a 12 percent jump from 2011. If the season ended Tuesday, Wright would finish with both the lowest strikeout rate of his career (15.7 percent) and the highest walk rate (18 percent). The fact that nearly 45 percent of his batted balls have fallen in for hits -- the fourth-highest rate in the majors -- suggests some regression is likely. But the overall picture that emerges is of a hitter driving the ball with more authority and being more selective. The two are not unrelated. "One of the biggest things, I think, is just the mindset of, I don't have to go up there and expand the strike zone," Wright said.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger cites similar stats in discussing Wright and suggesting this level of production is likely not fully sustainable. Yet McCullough also writes on the positive side:

Wright is striking out less and walking more, a sign of what he believes is proper timing at the plate. From 2009-11, he struck out 22.9 percent of the time, walked 11.2 percent and made contact with a strike 62.9 percent of the time. In April? He struck out a career-low 15.7 percent and walked a career-high 18 percent. Wright credited his uptick in walks to his position in the lineup. The trio of hitters behind him -- Jason Bay, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis -- began the season slowly. Wright believes he’s often been pitched around. “When Ike gets going,” he said, “ultimately, that will cut down on my walks.”

• With Mike Nickeas suffering from the flu and remaining back at the team hotel on Tuesday night, the Mets were considering bringing Vinny Rottino or Lucas May to Houston. Duda also was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day. Ultimately, though, the Mets opted to stand pat with the current active roster rather than summon help from Buffalo, team officials said postgame. Collins said it is possible Duda will return to the lineup for Wednesday's matinee. Read more in the Post, Record and Star-Ledger.

• Wright, a Virginia Tech football fan whose brother Daniel is a junior at the school, applauded the Giants' selection of Hokies running back David Wilson with their first pick in the NFL draft, according to Roger Rubin in the Daily News. “We exchanged a few texts,” Wright told Rubin. “I was talking with one of the Virginia Tech coaches on the phone and asked for his number. I wanted to say congratulations. He sounded pretty excited about the situation.”

Writes Rubin:

Wright’s brother Daniel is a junior at Tech and “he started telling me all about the guy, so I’ve been paying attention,” Wright said. “He told me about this football player who wore a jacket and tie to every class, did backflips when people asked him and was known on campus for other feats of strength. He was a legend for that stuff before he even became one for football.”

• Schwinden was charged with six runs (five earned) in four innings in his first major league start this season, Friday at Colorado. Now he's charged with helping the Mets avoid getting swept in Houston. “Everybody keeps telling me it’s the ballpark,” Schwinden told Mike Kerwick in the Record about his Coors Field struggles last weekend. “It’s tough. It’s one bad game and you can’t base it off of one game, so I’m going [Wednesday] and [will] go after hitters and be aggressive and make the right pitches and execute them.”

Cory Vaughn and Richard Lucas had four RBIs apiece as St. Lucie improved to 21-4 on the season with a 15-6 win against Jupiter on Tuesday. D.J. Carrasco, working the second of back-to-back days on a rehab assignment, pitched a scoreless inning. Read the full minor league recap here.

TRIVIA: Art Howe, a part-time broadcaster for the Astros, visited the Mets clubhouse at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. In Howe's first year as Mets manager, who were his hitting and pitching coaches?

Tuesday's answer: Charlie Manuel placed best in 2011 Manager of the Year balloting. Manuel finished fourth in the National League. Atlanta's Fredi Gonzalez finished one slot behind Manuel.