The New York Mets took advantage of the woes of Prince Fielder(notes) and J.J. Hardy(notes) to take two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers back in April. As the teams get ready to meet again, it’s the Mets that are struggling.
Fielder and Hardy try to help the Brewers end a five-game home losing streak to the injury-plagued Mets on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.
New York won its series against Milwaukee (40-35) from April 17-19 by limiting cleanup hitter Fielder to a single in 10 at-bats while No. 5 batter Hardy went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts. Fielder was hitting .175 when that series ended, and Hardy was at .114.
Hardy has been slumping most of the season, but believes his swing is coming around. The shortstop has put together one of his better stretches of the season over his last 11 games, going 12 for 42 (.286) with six RBIs.
“It’s a lot better. It’s amazing what a simple hit will do for you,” Hardy told the Brewers’ official Web site. “When you hit balls hard and you’re not finding holes, you feel like there are a thousand defenders out there.”
The Mets (37-37) have fallen to the .500 mark for the first time since May 6 after scoring three runs while being swept over the weekend at home by the New York Yankees. They are starting a seven-game trip, and continue to be without regulars Carlos Beltran(notes), Carlos Delgado(notes) and Jose Reyes.
“This is the most crucial period that we’re getting ready to go through,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “We’re going on the road. We’re playing teams that are playing very well. … We have to in any form or fashion survive these games because we feel that after this there’s hope, there’s other people coming to help us out.”
Manuel will turn to the red-hot Fernando Nieve(notes) (3-0, 1.31 ERA), who looks to win his fourth straight start. Nieve yielded three hits over six innings Wednesday in an 11-0 victory over St. Louis.
The right-hander has given up three runs and 10 hits in his 20 2-3 innings as a starter in 2009.
“He has to keep pitching for us,” Manuel said. “Shutout innings. Giving us an opportunity to win. He looks like his ball really gets on guys.”
Nieve’s only previous start against the Brewers was a memorable one on May 2, 2006, at Miller Park. He allowed four runs over seven innings to earn his first major league victory, 8-5 with Houston.
The right-hander gave up three runs over six innings Wednesday in a 4-3 win over Minnesota. He suffered a contusion on his right triceps after being hit by a line drive in the fifth, but said that he would be OK.
Looper, a former Met, has made one start and 46 relief appearances against New York, going 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA. The lone start came with St. Louis on April 4, 2007, when he allowed three runs over six innings in a 10-0 loss.