Jonathon Niese got back on track and so did the New York Mets.
Niese won for the first time in a month, Michael Conforto homered and the Mets inched closer to an NL East title with their 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.
"We needed this one bad," manager Terry Collins said. "I’m not trying to hide anything. There are big wins. This one is a big win for us. It kind of rights the ship a little bit."
Daniel Murphy lined a two-run double, Yoenis Cespedes had three hits and the Mets handed hard-luck Shelby Miller (5-16) his 15th straight defeat. New York stretched its lead to 6 1/2 games over the second-place Nationals with 12 to play and lowered its magic number for clinching the division to seven.
Washington’s interleague home game against Baltimore was postponed because of rain and rescheduled for Thursday.
Thanks in large part to Niese, the Mets rebounded nicely from a disappointing loss to the crosstown rival Yankees in the Subway Series.
"There wasn’t a whole lot of tension, but we understood that it was an important game," Conforto said.
Niese (9-10) had an 8.77 ERA in his previous five starts, though the Mets won four of those games. He might need to string several strong outings together to keep his spot in a potential playoff rotation.
"The other day we were talking about some of the situations that perhaps may happen down the road," Collins said, recalling a conversation he had with Niese. "`Right now, I need two of the best starts you’ve ever made in a row.’ And he gave us one tonight."
The left-hander tossed three-hit ball for six innings during an encouraging outing. He retired his first eight batters on grounders and got 13 of his 18 outs on the ground.
"I think it was the sinker. The sinker and changeup. I got some groundballs with the curveball, too," Niese said. "I think that was the biggest thing, was keeping them off balance in and out, staying in the bottom of the zone."
Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia finished the five-hitter for New York, which had dropped four of five since an eight-game winning streak.
Miller lost his seventh straight start. He threw a season-high 113 pitches in six innings, allowing two runs and seven hits — including Conforto’s homer. The right-hander is winless in his last 23 outings, the longest drought for a starter in Atlanta history, since coming within one out of a no-hitter in a 6-0 win May 17 at Miami.
"That `W’ has been right there at his fingertips and he hasn’t been able to grasp it yet," teammate Nick Swisher said.
It was the 13th time in those 23 starts Miller yielded no more than two earned runs. He has received by far the worst run support in the majors.
Miller’s winless streak already was the longest for any big league pitcher in a season he was an All-Star.
"At the end of the day, where I sit with myself and where my stuff is and where my year is, it’s been good," Miller said. "I’m not going to say wins and losses don’t matter because at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. We play the game to win."
BIG DAY FOR THE ROOKIE
Conforto, called up directly from Double-A in late July, was presented with his Mets minor league player of the year trophy before the game. He sent a solo shot to left-center in the second inning to make it 2-0. "That was the cherry on top," Conforto said. "Awesome day. Couldn’t have gone any better."
Braves: RF Nick Markakis missed his second consecutive game with stiffness in his upper back and neck. But he was feeling better and should be ready to play Tuesday, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. … C Christian Bethancourt sat out after bruising his left wrist on a play at the plate Sunday. X-rays were negative and he is day to day, the Braves said.
Mets: 3B David Wright received a scheduled night off. Murphy shifted to third base, and Kelly Johnson started at second. … MRI results were negative on 3B-2B Juan Uribe, who bruised his chest on a diving stop Sunday night. He should be available Tuesday, Collins said. … All-Star RHP Jacob deGrom, pushed back in the rotation for rest, will pitch this weekend in Cincinnati and probably has two starts remaining in the regular season, Collins said. … RHP Matt Harvey will pitch in Cincinnati and be on regular rest in his final two starts, Collins said.
Braves: Rookie RHP Matt Wisler (5-8) is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Mets. He beat deGrom 2-1 at home in his major league debut June 19.
Mets: RHP Logan Verrett (1-0, 1.91 ERA) fills in for deGrom in the middle game of the series Tuesday night. The rookie has pitched well in two spot starts for Harvey within the last month.