Less than four weeks ago, a playoff berth for the New York Mets wasn’t looking too promising.
After an impressive stretch, however, postseason baseball at Citi Field looks a whole lot more realistic now.
Led by David Wright(notes) and Jonathon Niese(notes), the surging Mets try to win their sixth in a row and move into first place in the NL East on Wednesday night when they face the Cleveland Indians.
New York (36-28) was last in the East on May 21, seven games out of first, but is a major league-best 16-5 since to pull within one-half game of division-leading Atlanta. The Mets, winners in nine of 10, haven’t been in first since they were 14-10 on May 1.
Wright has been instrumental to New York’s run, and came up with another stellar performance in Tuesday’s 7-6 series-opening win. The four-time All-Star third baseman drove in three runs and had three hits - his third three-hit game in the last four - and is batting .363 with four homers, seven doubles and 20 RBIs in the last 21 games. He is also hitting .367 with 18 RBIs in his last 14 games in AL parks.
While Wright is leading the offense, New York’s starting rotation has also been vital to the team’s recent success. The starters have a 2.65 ERA in the last 21 games and Niese (3-2, 3.61 ERA) is coming off a superb outing.
Niese threw a one-hitter for his first career complete game in Thursday’s 3-0 win over San Diego. Making his 18th major league start, the 23-year-old left-hander struck out six, walked none and retired the last 21 batters after Chris Denorfia’s(notes) third-inning double.
“Anytime you have an outing such as this when you’re really dominant, that gives you another level of confidence,” Jerry Manuel said. “He’s commanding all his pitches and is a very confident young man.”
It was the second consecutive strong outing for Niese, who allowed one run and six hits in seven innings of a 6-1 victory over Florida on June 5, his first start off the disabled list. Niese, sidelined May 17 to June 4 with a strained right hamstring, was 0-1 with an 8.76 ERA in his three starts before landing on the DL.
“When I went on the DL, I got some rest and it’s paid off,” he said.
This will be Niese’s first career appearance against the Indians (25-38).
Although Cleveland has lost two in a row, its offense is showing signs of coming around, plating six runs or more in five of its last six. Travis Hafner(notes) homered for the fourth time in six games Tuesday after hitting one in his previous 26 contests.
In spite of the strong offensive showing Tuesday, the Indians struggled in the field, committing three errors.
Talbot threw a season-low four innings in Thursday’s 8-7 win over Boston, giving up five runs - two earned - with six hits and four walks. Third baseman Andy Marte(notes) didn’t make things easy for Talbot, committing three errors in the first inning.
Although Talbot didn’t receive a win, the Indians moved to 8-4 in the right-hander’s starts. They are 17-34 when he doesn’t pitch.
This will be Talbot’s first appearance against the Mets.