“He showed today why he is our number one,’’ John Buck said, according to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. “I’ve said all along he could be a number one on a lot of teams and he showed that. He had a lot of pressure coming in, being moved into that role with Santana being out. His first home opener, he stepped up and did what No. 1 should do."
Collins was going to remove Niese after the sixth inning, but Niese argued with Collins in the dugout about the decision, and so Collins allowed him to pitch into the seventh inning.
“Last year was a year when I hit that sixth inning and I had 95 pitches and they kind of shut me down,’’ Niese explained to reporters after the game. “I want to be that guy that goes back out and finishes my starts. I just told [Collins] I wanted to go back out and that I felt like I had a lot left.’’
Dating back to last June, Niese has made 20 consecutive starts in which he's allowed three walks or less.
I love that bulldog mentality Niese had yesterday, and it's something the Mets -- or any team -- should want to see from a number one starter. It's a leadership quality, and another indication Niese that has progressed over the last couple of years. He has built a level of trust with Collins and his coaching staff which, aside from his performance yesterday, has earned him that opportunity to talk his way into pitching to extra batters.
If Niese works as efficiently as he has since last June, he'll hopefully finish his fair share of games. Yesterday, Collins said they weren't pushing him beyond 100 pitches no matter what, but the fact Niese was able to command the strike zone with his two fastballs and cutter so well allowed him to pitch as deep into the game as he did. In prior years, Niese would struggle with his command, work deeper counts, and was unable to put hitters away; that prevented him from getting into the sixth and seventh innings. He is a lot better since that time, and his ability to harness his cutter and curveball, as well as understand how to use those pitches strategically, has helped ascend him to the top of this rotation.