On the heels of New York Mets’ pitcher Jon Niese’s worst start this season against the Atlanta Braves last week, the left-hander came into the game looking to have a rebound performance. Unfortunately, Saturday afternoon’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just as bad, if not worse than the previous outing, and Niese had to leave the game in the fifth inning.
Coupled with Niese’s bad start was a good effort by Francisco Liriano, making his first start as a Pirate this season after being reactivated from the disabled list. Liriano went 5.1 and gave up one run. It was a tough game for the Met’s offense; they struck out a combined 16 times, and were only able to score two runs in a 11-2 loss made more intolerable by a rain delay late in the game.
Niese gave up a career-high eight runs in 4.1 innings, including two homeruns, and struck out only three Bucs. Just like his last start, Niese seemed to be having trouble with his fastballs, namely his four-seamer and his cutter, two of his go-to pitches. They were staying up in zone with little horizontal movement on the cutter, resulting in his difficulty to put hitters away.
Niese’s struggles are now becoming more pronounced; he is now 2-4 with an ERA close to six. Furthermore, in his last two starts, he has not made it out of the fifth inning, making him a liability to the bullpen if he continues in this way. His post-game interview suggested that he felt there was a mechanical problem causing his issues with his fastball, and hopefully he can fix it before his next start because the Mets’ patience seem to be running thin.
It doesn’t help Niese that the team has young-phenom Zack Wheeler waiting in the wings, who conversely has had two impressive recent starts in Triple-A. Regardless of Wheeler, the Mets need Niese, and they need him to be effective. He is their only southpaw starter, and he has proven that he has talent. If he fixes his mechanical issues and works on locating his fastball, he should return to the Niese that began the season; but nothing is certain.
His next start is against the St. Louis Cardinals next Thursday, and he is currently slated to face Adam Wainwright, who is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA and a WHIP under one. Not only is Niese going to have to work on his stuff for his next start, he’s most likely going to have to pitch a gem to keep his team in the game.
Holly Berkowitz is a New York Yankees writer for rantsports.com Follow her on Twitter @hollyberry9118.