So here's what we know about Jonathan Niese right now:
Give him a 10-0 lead (2 starts ago against Detroit) and he doesn't seem to be able to keep his head in the game.
Leads of 5-0 (Friday night versus Washington) and 6-0 (last week against the Twins) seem to suit him just fine.
And perhaps most importantly - he is fast becoming the Mets' most reliable arm.
Niese had 8 strikeouts through four innings Friday night - he finished with those eight K's, but didn't walk anyone and gave up just six hits - a homer by Josh Willingham being the only blemish in the runs column.
Niese has looked great his past six starts (the Detroit game was just weird - after the Mets went up 10-0 he almost blew it, but I really feel like he lost concentration and I'm willing to give him a pass). I have a tremendous amount of confidence in him when he takes the mound - I'm sure his teammates have the same amount, if not more.
Most tellingly, four of Niese's past five starts have come following a Mets loss. The Mets have won them all. (The one in between was also a win, following a win, and the Detroit game is included in this, even though he didn't get the win, because the Mets held on to win the game). He's becoming a legitimate stopper on a team that shouldn't really have to rely on a Jonathan Niese to be a stopper.
The other good news is that David Wright has carried his hot hitting into July - he was 3-for-5 Friday night, including his 25th double of the year.
Now the bad news - the Mets had to use three pitchers in the ninth before shutting the door on the Nationals. Pedro Feliciano struck out the only man he faced, but Elmer Dessens allowed two baserunners and only got one man out, so the game turned over to Francisco Rodriguez - he allowed all his inherited runners to score before picking a runner off second base to end the game. (My initial reaction was "What are you throwing a pickoff for?!?!" But he got the out, so I'll take it.) It was a shaky effort in the ninth for the Mets, almost wasting Niese's awesome game. I'll take them a little less close in the future, thank you very much.
So here we are - the Mets against Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Let me be the first to say it - it'll be a study in contrasts as R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball go for the Mets. Now, my parents are going to be visiting, but I think I can pull this off - I'm going to try to live blog the game.
So be here 4pm - doesn't matter how nice it is outside - I'll be on this end sharing my thoughts all the way through.