Mets without Wright at halfway point get win over Pirates at halfway point

By Rich Mancuso

It is the halfway point of the season for the New York Mets and it could be worse. At 37-44 it is no surprise and it will take a good second half run, in what appears to be a mediocre NL east, for any consideration at a post season. They at times show some spark at the plate but overall still are next to last in almost every offensive category in the National league.

It could be worse, and credit a starting pitching staff that is seventh in league ERA with keeping the Mets in ballgames. The latest good outing from Jonathon Niese paved the way for New York to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3.

More importantly, the Mets got some good news about their captain David Wright. He was in New York getting an MRI on a sore left shoulder. Any significant amount number of games missed by Wright obviously does not help their anemic offense, and the news was somewhat good.

Wright will miss some games with a bruised left rotator cuff, though he will not be disabled and will be treated with anti inflammations before another exam is done on Monday. The Mets are being cautious on this one, and rightfully so.

In the meantime, Eric Campbell will patrol third base, this as the Mets are a man short in the infield when they sent Wilmer Flores back to Triple-A Las Vegas after their loss Wednesday night to Oakland at Citi Field.

But if Campbell can get some hits, as he did with three Saturday, they can breathe easier and give Wright some extra time, going on the assumption that Wright will not be disabled. And if that is the case, Flores will most likely be recalled as the extra man.

So, the revolving door of roster changes for the Mets, that was so common these first 81 games, will continue until the All-star break in two weeks. There is no reason to panic because the Mets were not projected to be playing post-season baseball in October, even though the GM Sandy Alderson said the team could win 90-games.

Pitching, though, continues to be the focal point. Niese (5-4) continued his good first half against the Pirates. He gave up three runs, seven hits in six innings, striking out five. He has gone 20- consecutive starts allowing three runs or fewer, longest active streak in baseball.

He did get into a jam, consecutive bases loaded walks that got the Pirates two runs.  Sometimes Niese, with a 2.88 ERA will get into that type of trouble but what matters, to manager Terry Collins, is the way Niese battles back and regains his composure.

“You just kind of take a deep breath,” Niese said. “Mechanically, I think I was just trying to rush the ball to the plate.” He could not find command of the breaking ball and cutter and he admitted that he did not like giving up an extra run on walks.

 “I’m just glad I got out of that, because it could have got ugly there quick,” he said. And from there the bullpen took over, another part of this first half that has kept the Mets afloat, at least most of the time. Remember Kyle Farnswoth and Jose Valverde, the two who were released that let many a game get away and denied someone like Niese more than the record shows?

Collins went to Jeurys Familia who threw two perfect relief innings on 12 pitches. The closer, Jenrry Mejia got his first save since June 15 and his ninth. Every game should go this way for the Mets but that would be asking the impossible.

In the meantime, the Mets will look to get a split of the four-game series Sunday afternoon. And then it is on to Atlanta, a team in a tight and close battle with Washington for first place in the division.

Niese said, it helps that his team got some runs on the board. Now, as the Mets begin the second half and can get those runs, well perhaps they could be the surprise of baseball and play some meaningful games in September.

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