MLB: Niese Needs to Be at His Best in Mets' Opener Against Washington

Mike CorasanitiContributor IIIJuly 17, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 03:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets piches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on July 3, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Jonathon Niese has been a bit polarizing as of late.

In some outings, the New York Mets will get the promising 25-year-old who strikes out five, gives up an earned run here or there, and is good for at least six or seven innings (in 17 starts this year, Niese is averaging a little over six innings of work.) But in other outings, Niese looks uncomfortable, sporadic, and can have trouble keeping the ball inside the stadium (Niese gave up four long balls in his May 18 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.)

The Mets desperately need Niese to be the former rather than the later tonight against the Washington Nationals.

It's not as if the Nationals are sending out their ace in Ross Detwiler. The 26-year-old is a mediocre 4-3 and is coming off his worst start of the season in which he gave up 11 hits and three earned runs over five innings (in a Washington win). Of the three pitchers New York is facing this series, it should have its best luck against Detwiler—but this is all the more reason why Niese needs to be on point tonight.

Too many teams this year have the Mets taking a commanding lead over poor pitching, only to have that lead blown later in the game by their bad and getting worse bullpen. The first game in this crucial series will prove to be the most crucial, and in short, this game can not go to the bullpen any earlier then needed.

So what kind of Jonathon Niese do the Mets need tonight?

Certainly not the July 8 Niese, who gave up all 7 earned runs in a 7-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. But then again, the Mets don't really need the June 3 Niese, who struck out 10 St. Louis Cardinals in a six inning performance. But rather, the Mets just need the consistent Niese they have seen for most of the season. The Niese that can go seven or eight innings, not necessarily dominantly, but strong enough so that the Mets can be comfortable with a two or three run jump on Detwiler. 

Niese has been polarizing in his past couple outings, winning a couple here, losing a couple there. But the Mets don't need him to be the dominant pitcher that he can be, they just need him to be the consistent, fluid pitcher that he will be.