Mets 3, Nationals 0

Soaked through to his skin on a muddy mound, Jonathon Niese

found himself trying in vain to dry off those water-logged

baseballs in the seventh inning.

Somehow, the New York Mets’ left-hander managed to shake off the

heavy rain and deliver his best performance of the season.

Niese pitched seven sharp innings and Justin Turner added to his

surprising tear with a two-run double that sent New York to a 3-0

victory over the light-hitting Washington Nationals on Wednesday

night.

”I’ve never played in anything like that,” Niese said. ”It’s

the wettest I’ve ever been pitching. … Every ball the umpire gave

me was wet. I had to do my best to rub them dry in my hands.”

With maybe a few thousand hardy souls in the stands on another

soggy night at Citi Field, the Mets’ depleted lineup scratched out

enough offense to help Niese (3-4) win his second consecutive

start.

Playing without injured regulars David Wright, Ike Davis and

Angel Pagan, New York won for the eighth time in 12 games and tied

Washington for fourth place in the NL East.

Jason Bay had a sacrifice fly in the first inning and Turner

cracked a two-out double in the sixth to chase Tom Gorzelanny (2-3)

after 116 pitches. Jose Reyes singled three times, drew an

intentional walk and scored twice from his leadoff spot.

”Everybody’s not thinking about who isn’t here, they’re

thinking about making the most of their opportunities,” Niese

said.

With deep puddles forming on the infield, Jason Isringhausen

worked a one-hit eighth and Francisco Rodriguez got three outs for

his 13th save in 14 chances. K-Rod blew his first opportunity of

the season, but has tossed 17 straight shutout innings dating to

April 17.

With two on, he retired pinch-hitter Laynce Nix and then Roger

Bernadina on consecutive flyouts to end it.

New York allowed eight hits in its first shutout this year.

Washington was blanked for the sixth time.

Quiet nights at the plate are nothing new for the Nationals.

They began the day ranked last in the NL in batting average (.225),

on-base percentage (.298), slugging (.348), hits (302), total bases

(467) and doubles (57).

”There’s nothing to do except work your way out of it,”

manager Jim Riggleman said.

Both teams were rained out Tuesday night – the Nationals at home

against Pittsburgh, and the Mets at home against the Marlins. That

came after New York and Florida played through the mist on a muddy

track Monday night.

The announced attendance Wednesday was 24,527, but nearly all

the seats were empty and hecklers could be heard from the

stands.

”It was wet and rainy just like it looked, but I think all of

us were kind of itching to play,” Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond

said. ”We were ready to get back out there.”

After some torrential rain in the afternoon, the heavy stuff

stopped in time to start the game on time – with no more than a

couple hundred fans in the ballpark.

The grounds crew worked hard between innings all night to try to

dry out the infield and it was absolutely pouring when Bernadina

grounded out with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

Still, play went on without interruption.

Niese gave up six hits and one walk, striking out seven. The

left-hander threw 72 of 112 pitches for strikes.

”He’s certainly showing he can pitch in a jam,” Mets manager

Terry Collins said. ”With our lineup shaken up a little bit, we’ve

got to pitch.”

Reyes hit a leadoff single in the first, went to third on

Turner’s double and scored on Bay’s sacrifice fly.

Scott Hairston reached on an infield single to start the sixth,

easily beating a throw from his brother, Jerry, at third base. With

two outs and first base open, Reyes was intentionally walked to

bring up Turner. He doubled to center over the head of the speedy

Bernadina, who was playing shallow.

Before that hit, New York was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring

position.

Turner, called up from the minors last month to share playing

time at second base, has provided an offensive spark. He shifted to

third base Wednesday to fill in for Wright and is hitting .387 with

11 RBIs in his last nine games.

Turner hit his first major league homer and drove in a

career-best five runs Sunday in Houston to lead the Mets to a

victory.

”It’s all about taking advantage of opportunities,” he said.

”It’s a little easier to take your at-bats and get comfortable

when you see your name in the lineup.”

NOTES: Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said RHP Stephen Strasburg is

preparing to throw off a mound ”any day now,” the next step in

his recovery from Sept. 3 elbow surgery. … Washington OF Rick

Ankiel (right wrist) is close to beginning a minor league rehab

assignment and could be back in about a week. … As planned, the

Mets put Wright (lower back) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May

16, and called up 1B-OF Nick Evans from Triple-A Buffalo. …

Collins said he plans to tweak his depleted lineup in the next

couple of days, perhaps moving Bay into the No. 2 hole.