Cardinals-Mets Preview

For a second straight start, Jonathon Niese must follow a pair

of dominant performances from the top two pitchers in the New York

Mets’ rotation.

After shutting out St. Louis in the first two of this four-game

set, the Mets hope Niese can help them hand the Cardinals a

season-high fifth straight loss Sunday night at Citi Field.

Less than 24 hours after Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter

in Mets history, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey allowed seven hits and

struck out nine while going the distance in Saturday’s 5-0 victory

over the Cardinals.

It was the eighth win in 11 games for New York (30-23), which

trails Washington by one game for the NL East lead.

“That’s how you’re going to be successful,” Mets manager Terry

Collins said. “It starts with pitching and it will always be

pitching, and when those two guys go out there, we think we’ve got

a chance to win.”

The Mets, who last shut out three straight opponents May 25-27,

2010, blanked San Diego last Saturday and Sunday behind strong

efforts from Santana and Dickey, respectively. Niese (3-2, 4.55

ERA), however, allowed four runs and a season-high five walks in

five innings while not factoring in the decision of an 8-4 loss to

Philadelphia on Monday.

“It’s one of those things where I didn’t have my good stuff,”

Niese told the Mets’ official website. “That’s the way it

goes.”

The left-hander is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in three starts versus

St. Louis – all in Queens.

Hoping to avoid being shut out in three straight games for the

first time since Oct. 2-3, 1976, St. Louis (27-26) has dropped four

in a row and seven of nine. The Cardinals are 11-18 over the past

calendar month.

“We will get it going here,” said infielder Daniel Descalso,

who had two hits Saturday and is batting .368 (7 for 19) in his

last five games. “We just need to bounce back and make some

adjustments.”

Former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran doubled in the second

inning Saturday for St. Louis’ first hit of the series. Beltran hit

a line drive over third base during Friday’s sixth inning that hit

the foul line, but third base umpire Adrian Johnson ruled it foul

to keep Santana’s no-hitter intact.

David Wright homered Saturday for the Mets, who have won 17 of

their last 24 regular-season home games versus St. Louis. Wright is

a career .372 hitter with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 27 home

contests against the Cardinals including postseason.

However, he’s 0 for 7 versus scheduled St. Louis starter Jake

Westbrook (4-4, 3.84).

The right-hander opened the season 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA, but is

0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in his last four starts. He’s yielded 11 runs

and six walks over 8 2-3 innings in his last two outings, and four

of the five runs he allowed Tuesday in five innings of a 5-4 loss

at Atlanta came on two homers.

“That’s a couple of games in a row I’ve put us in a hole,”

Westbrook said. “I’ve got to do a better job. With the sinker that

I have, that should keep the ball in the yard.”

He is 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in three career starts versus the

Mets.