MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The young pitching trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard has gotten much of the credit for the New York Mets' climb atop the NL East.
The suddenly productive offense has also been a factor, something that's certainly come as a relief to Jonathon Niese.
Niese is looking for some help as he tries to extend his road shutout streak and lead the Mets to a fifth straight win Tuesday night against the Miami Marlins.
New York (56-50) holds the division lead this late in a season for the first time since Sept. 19, 2008, with a one-game edge on Washington.
"It's always nice to be there, but we've got a lot of games to play," manager Terry Collins said.
While the club's staff is among baseball's best with a 3.22 ERA, Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have a collective 1.57 mark and 14-6 record over the last 28 combined starts.
Niese (5-9, 3.63 ERA), though, has been no slouch with a 2.78 ERA over his last nine starts, but he's gone 2-3 while receiving no runs of support in four of those outings.
The bats weren't the problem Thursday when the left-hander allowed one run in six innings and departed with a six-run lead before the bullpen blew it in an 8-7 loss to San Diego.
Niese now takes the mound on the road, where he's assembled a career-best streak of 15 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings - 4 1-3 shy of deGrom's team high from last month.
He's won his last two starts in Miami (43-63) despite a 6.75 ERA after tossing 13 shutout innings and not getting a decision in his previous two - both New York defeats.
Confidence in the offense seems to be growing for the Mets, who are averaging 6.0 runs and batting .265 with 18 homers during a 7-2 stretch. Their .236 season average and 3.63 runs per game are still among the worst in the majors.
They pounded out 15 hits, including six doubles, in Monday's 12-1 win over Miami. Yoenis Cespedes doubled on all three of his hits and added four RBIs in his best performance since being acquired from Detroit prior to Friday's trade deadline.
"He was really close to hitting the ball out of the ballpark a couple times," Curtis Granderson said. "It's very impressive to get a chance to watch him swing the bat."
Cespedes is 8 for 20 with seven runs in four career games in Miami.
Granderson also had three hits with two RBIs on Monday, giving him a .351 average while plating nine runs in the past nine games.
Lucas Duda, however, continued to struggle away from Citi Field, striking out in all four at-bats in the opener of this three-game set. He is batting .190 with three homers and nine RBIs on the road compared to .393 with nine homers and 12 RBIs in his last eight home games. Duda, though, is 5 for 14 with a homer and two doubles off Brad Hand.
Another trade has Hand (1-2, 5.12) changing roles again. The left-hander is getting a chance to earn a spot in the rotation after Dan Haren was dealt to the Chicago Cubs prior to the deadline. This comes a week after he was moved into the setup role after Steve Cishek was traded to St. Louis.
Hand is 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA in three starts this season. He gave up six runs and was pulled with two outs in the first of an 11-3 loss at Toronto in his most recent June 8.
He's 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA in four career starts against the Mets.
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