- Last Updated: 7:50 AM, June 4, 2012
- Posted: 2:26 AM, June 4, 2012
The mets went to bed last night locked in a virtual three-way tie for first place in the NL East. It’s June 4, and all that. But after what this franchise has endured, before, during and after Madoff, you might understand why no one should want to pinch himself today, why everyone in Flushing should want to stare with pride at the standings.
“They should be very proud of where they are,” Terry Collins said after Mets 6, Cardinals 1.
And they are.
“We’re not playing this game to prove people wrong, I don’t think,” Josh Thole said, “but again, we have to show our fans that we’re gonna play hard for ’em and we’re gonna win. You can’t look too far into it, because it is only June, but in the same token, it’s better than being in last place when you’re digging yourself out of a hole. Where we’re moving right now feels great.”
They are moving in on a sweep of the Cardinals today because out of nowhere, the Mets have themselves a Murderers Row on the mound. Or a Murderers Throw. Maybe it’s just that the Cardinals have turned into The Hole In The Bat Gang. Or maybe Johan Santana’s historic no-hitter is contagious.
But on the heels of Santana, and then R.A. Dickey’s shutout, there was Jon Niese last night, channeling his best Dr. K., striking out a career-high 10 batters over six shutout innings.
No one needs to start getting hysterical and dare compare the Santana-Dickey-Niese triumvirate to Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack. But if Santana regains command of his fastball, if Dickey keeps that diabolical knuckleball fluttering, if Niese has the breakout everyone is expecting, then the Mets will have a chance to shock the world.
Collins was asked whether this is a playoff team.
“We can be. ‘Cause we can pitch. We can really pitch. And when we get Ike [Davis] going... Lucas [Duda] is starting to do what we expect, and Dan Murphy’s gonna hit, and we get Jason Bay back — I’ll tell you what: We might be a shock to a lot of people.”
Niese (4-2) reminded you why one day he will be an ace.
“We need him,” Collins said. “His stuff is too good to be a .500 pitcher. One of the things we know is this is a long year, and you’re allowed to get off to bad starts once in a while. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a bad start, but it’s not the kind of start that he’s capable of having. “
Not with that electric curveball that tormented the Cardinals.
“It’s a swing-and-miss pitch,” Collins said. “And not very many guys have a swing-and-miss pitch.”
Niese found the release point for that curveball that had been betraying him this season. His only problem — and keep your fingers crossed that it is nothing serious — was the return of a racing heart that plagued him last June 25 in Texas and shut his night down after 97 pitches. He said he felt fine afterwards.
“It’s not something that hinders my performance. ... It’s kinda like a huge adrenaline rush,” Niese said.
Forgive Mets fans if their hearts race when they check out the standings.
“I think if we keep doing the little things right, the breaks will come our way,” Niese said, “and who knows where it’ll lead us? Hopefully it leads us into the direction we’re going. Which is up.”