The day began by conceding the present for the future. It ended with something that had not been experienced in the previous five games: a win.
For the first time since Aug. 20, the Mets were able to enjoy professional sports’ most tangible example of success, this a 5-0 win over the Phillies Tuesday night at Citi Field. The Mets improved to 59-71 with 32 games remaining this season.
“It’s huge for the team,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re going to fight. We’re still going to go out there, and we’re going to get [third baseman] David [Wright] back pretty soon which [will] help, but this is an opportunity for those young kids who are in there to show us they belong here.”
Following a five-game stretch in which they were outscored 26-6, the Mets desperately needed a strong pitching effort from Jon Niese. Niese (6-6) threw a complete game three-hitter.
In recording the Mets’ eighth shutout of the season, Niese induced 13 ground ball outs, and seven fly ball outs while striking out five. He retired 17 in a row after Michael Young’s single to lead off the second.
“[Catcher] Travis [d’Arnaud] and I had a game plan going [into the game, and] we executed it well,” Niese said. “Establish the fastball and locate the cutter. [I] was able to get some ground balls and the infield did a great job making some plays.”
Niese did more than silence the Phillies’ bats. He contributed offensively with a run and three RBIs. Daniel Murphy plated Niese with an RBI single in the third that turned out to be the only run he would need. Three innings later, following d’Arnaud’s sac fly which scored Andrew Young, Niese drove Kyle Kendrick’s (10-11) 91-mph sinker to the left-center field gap that scored Ike Davis, Juan Lagares and Omar Quintanilla.
“That might have been one of the better at-bats we’ve had in the last five days,” Collins said of Niese’s hit. “I was impressed. Jon’s a good hitter for a pitcher. As a matter of fact, when he went up there I [was] thinking, ‘I know they’re going to try to pitch him inside and if he can, he’ll fist something over the infield and get one of these runs in. It would really help.’ Of course, he did more than that. It was a good at-bat.”
The win was a temporary panacea for a team that entered last night having lost five games in a row, while being blindsided by the news of Matt Harvey’s partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and the trade of Marlon Byrd, John Buck and cash to Pittsburgh for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.
Byrd had led the Mets with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs this season, while Buck ranked second on the team with 60 RBIs and 15 homers.
“I’m going to miss both those guys dearly. They’re great teammates, great people, great individuals,” d’Arnaud said. “They’re veterans; they’ve been there for all of us. It’s going to be ... I don’t even know what to say. I wish nothing but the best to John and Marlon.”
Since being called up on Aug. 16, d’Arnaud had played more than Buck, who served the dual role of friend and mentor.
“We exchanged some words and we both wished each other luck,” d’Arnaud said. “He said shoot him a call anytime. I told him to say hello to my brother [Pirates infielder Chase d’Arnaud] for me.
“Any question I had, he was always there. [Buck is] a great guy. He was always there for me. He will continue always to be there for me.”
In the corresponding roster move following the trade, reliever Robert Carson, catcher Anthony Recker and outfielder Matt den Dekker from Triple-A Las Vegas. All three dressed and were active for the game.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.