By Ed Coleman
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Jon Niese continued the string of strong first starts by the Mets’ starting rotation, hurling three scoreless innings in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. Niese allowed two hits, struck out two, but issued two walks – both with 2 outs – something he said just can’t happen during the regular season.
Manager Terry Collins is counting on Niese to build on his strong 2010 season, one which saw the lefthander falter down the stretch. Collins said he thinks and hopes that is behind him.
The Mets scored in the first inning on a shallow David Wright sacrifice fly. Jose Reyes – who had led off the game with a double to right against Livan Hernandez – scored from third, just sliding in ahead of the throw from new Nationals’ right-fielder Jason Werth. But Washington scored four times against Manny Alvarez in the 4th to take the lead for good.
Pedro Beato and Manny Acosta each threw a scoreless inning, then Bobby Parnell finished up, allowing a run on four hits over the final two innings. Parnell was hit rather hard, and has a tendency to fall in love with his electric fastball to the exclusion of his secondary pitches. Pitching coach Dan Warthen says Parnell has to pay more attention to his pitch sequences.
Parnell was taking the place of closer Frankie Rodriguez, who was supposed to pitch but stayed behind in Port St. Lucie to throw a side session. Rodriguez will now go on Thursday for his first stint this spring.
The Mets had 10 hits, half of them doubles. Lucas Duda had a pair, and Fernando Martinez continued his torrid start with two more hits. Martinez now has 5 hits in 8 AB – he also committed his second error and was caught stealing.
The Mets have now played home-and-home with the Braves and Nationals – they’ll continue the pattern the next two days with the Cardinals. On Wednesday, they travel to Jupiter – R.A. Dickey will match up with St. Louis righty Jake Westbrook, then Thursday at home it’s Chris Capuano against lefty Jaime Garcia.
C U soon
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