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Reinforcements on way as Mets drop rubber game to lowly D-backs

PHOENIX -- At least reinforcements are headed to San Francisco on Thursday, although it may be too late after a rubber-game loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks dropped the depleted New York Mets back to .500.

Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Ruggiano all are due to fly to California to rejoin the Mets after completing rehab assignments. Cespedes won’t be eligible to be activated from the disabled list until Friday, however.

Meanwhile, the Mets now almost have to use Monday’s off day to skip their fifth starter. Otherwise, the next turn for Jonathon Niese comes up in Tuesday’s all-important series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals have opened a four-game lead on the Mets for the second wild-card spot. Skipping Niese would line up Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon on standard rest in St. Louis.

Manager Terry Collins acknowledged after Wednesday’s 13-5 loss to the Diamondbacks that skipping Niese’s turn has to be a consideration, although the manager said he would have to defer a decision until he sees how arduous the workloads are for his frontline starters this weekend against the Giants.

“We don’t make those decisions this far in advance,” Collins said. “It’s a viable point, but we’ve got to wait to see what happens in the next couple of days.”

Taking over for demoted Logan Verrett on Wednesday, Niese offered a glimpse into why the Pittsburgh Pirates yanked him from the rotation earlier this season and ultimately traded him back to the Mets for Antonio Bastardo.

Niese surrendered fourth-inning homers to Rickie Weeks Jr. and Yasmany Tomas and was charged with four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Lowly Arizona (50-70) won five of six games in the season series from the Mets (60-60).

The rotation spot once occupied by Matt Harvey has been in disarray. Verrett was demoted after going 0-3 with a 7.18 ERA in seven starts. Niese was selected over Gabriel Ynoa, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo to take over, but things did not go well Wednesday.

Niese’s combined ERA with the Pirates and Mets swelled to 5.30 this season.

Collins nonetheless spoke positively about Niese’s outing, noting it had been six weeks since he last started a game. The manager added that Chase Field is conducive to homers. Niese did, in fact, hold the Diamondbacks hitless over the opening three innings. The southpaw threw 82 pitches.

“The endurance really wasn’t there like it normally is,” Niese said.