New York Mets Need a 'Very Niese' Effort in Series Opener Against the Washington Nationals: Fan's View

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After slogging through nine full days without tasting victory, including three straight forgettable efforts against the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, the New York Mets desperately need Jon Niese to step up as a stopper more so than at any other time this season.

Mets Need A "Very Niese" Effort

Niese, who is slated to take the start for the Mets' series-opening tilt against the Washington Nationals on July 17, hasn't pitched since giving up seven runs in seven innings of work on July 8 against the Chicago Cubs.

He'll take the mound opposite Ross Detwiler, who gave up 11 hits to the San Francisco Giants in his last effort, and hasn't taken a decision in over a month.

Detwiler is 4-3, while he 25-year-old New York Mets lefty is now 7-4 with a 3.73 ERA. Niese has been solid, but he needs to elevate his game to take the pressure of the Mets' aces of the first half, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

Dickey Was Bound To Hit A Snag In The Road

It seemed pretty unreasonable to count on Dickey to continue his pace of notching 25 wins on the season, and that reality has come true with the 37-year-old knuckleballer giving up five earned runs in back-to-back starts.

Santana has been just as bad in his last two efforts, giving up seven runs in 4.2 innings to the Chicago Cubs on July 6, and giving up six runs in five innings against the Atlanta Braves on July 15.

With the two aces struggling to find their rhythm, it's Niese's time to shine and prove he's worth the five-year, $25.5 million extension he received from the Mets in April.

Avoiding Strasburg

The Mets got lucky by avoiding Stephen Strasburg for their upcoming series against the Nationals, but with the shaky Chris Young taking the start for the second game of the series, and going to work against Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez on July 19 in the series finale, taking the series opener with Niese on the mound is vital.

The next two weeks are a make or break time for the Mets, as they try to determine whether to be buyers or sellers at the July 31 trade deadline.

Judging by the first two weeks of July, it looks like the wheels are starting to fall off on the season. There's still plenty of time to recover, but they need to start making up some ground and divisional rivals like the Nationals.

Will Jon Niese step up as an ace in the second half? Let me know in the comments.

Eric Holden is a lifelong New York Mets fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.

Sources, MLB, player and team stats

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