The names deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard are the ones that hang on the Mets' marquee right now, the younger crowd with the repertoire to star on the mound.
They have cast an XL-sized shadow over Jon Niese, but he has also consistently kept a low tab for damages by the opposing teams. The 28-year-old lefty stood on the mound at Citi Field for the series opener against the Rockies last night as the owner of just a 3-4 record over his previous 11 outings. But 10 of them were in the "quality" category.
Now the Mets have added the bats to provide some support for the rotation. Niese turned in yet another quality start. And after being one-hit through six innings by rookie Jon Gray, the Mets came back to take the lead with three in the seventh. So first in the NL East beat worst in the NL West, 4-2.
"Jon Niese has been overshadowed a little bit, but I don't think he cares," Terry Collins said before Niese yielded two runs, six hits and no walks over seven. "I think he's just, 'Hey look, I'll do what I can do.' "
What he had done in the previous 11 starts dating to June 5 was post a 2.78 ERA and hold batters to a collective .236 average.
"When he started to get command of his fastball, things changed," Collins said.
Jeurys Familia earned his 31st save as the Mets' NL East lead grew to two games over the Nationals, who played the Dodgers late Monday night.
Colorado hit into 10 ground-ball outs against Niese. Collins said part of the reason he used Kelly Johnson at second, Ruben Tejada at short and Daniel Murphy at third was to give the Mets "the best defense with balls on the ground, because he gets ground balls."
The Mets could get more offensive help soon. David Wright went 1-for-3 with a walk for St. Lucie Monday night in his first rehab game.
Gray, who is the Rockies' top pitching prospect, served up just a Travis d'Arnaud solo shot in the second. The 23-year-old righty is on an innings limit. It took only 75 pitches for him to get through six innings before he was pulled.
The Mets broke through against relievers Justin Miller and Boone Logan in the seventh. They were in a 2-1 hole but had the bases loaded with two outs. Logan came on to face Curtis Granderson. With the count full, the former Yankees lefty hit Granderson in the right arm to force in the tying run.
Murphy then grounded a two-run single past Jose Reyes and into left for the 4-2 lead.
"It was one of those games that probably a year ago we don't win that game," Collins said. "But the team, with what they're doing right now, the confidence that they have, tonight we win those kind of games."
Carlos Gonzalez gave the Rockies the lead in the fourth with a two-run blast, his 26th. But Niese (7-9) held them from there.
After the game, Collins couldn't say enough about Niese. "I love Jon Niese because he competes. He never wants to come out of the game, he doesn't care what the score is," Collins said. "I argue with him every night. Had one again with him tonight. Every night. He doesn't want to come out.
"That's one of the things you start seeing, he doesn't care who's getting the headlines as long as he's getting the ball. He's pitching very, very well. I tell you what, his games are as important as any of those other guys' games. He's pitched great lately."