Jonathon Niese has been very reliable for the New York Mets over the last month, but he could have a hard time duplicating the team's most recent starting pitching performance.
After getting a shutout and a home run from Johan Santana, the Mets will hand the ball to Niese as they try for their seventh straight series win at home Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.Since his June 5 return from the disabled list, Niese (6-2, 3.62 ERA) has been New York's most consistent starter, going 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA in six games -- all Mets wins.Niese, though, could struggle to match Santana's outing from Tuesday night. The two-time Cy Young Award winner gave up three hits in the 3-0 victory and hit his first career home run to start the Mets' scoring in the third inning."With the home run, I'd say that's the best game for a starting pitcher this year," catcher Rod Barajas told the Mets' official website.Santana put the Mets (47-37) in position to win a seventh straight home series with a victory in Wednesday's finale. New York hasn't dropped a series at Citi Field since losing two of three to Washington from May 10-12.The Mets have to like their chances with Niese taking the mound. They're 10-2 in his last 12 outings after he held the Nationals to one run and six hits in seven innings of a 5-3 win Friday. The left-hander struck out a season-high eight and didn't issue a walk."I think if I'm able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Niese said, "I think I have a good variety that keeps them off-balance."Niese gave up four runs and a career-high 12 hits in six innings of his only previous start against Cincinnati, a 5-4, 10-inning defeat on the road May 5. Jonny Gomes and Brandon Phillips are each 2 for 3 with a homer against him.The Reds (48-37) got the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but Santana got out of the jam and handed Cincinnati its fourth loss in 15 games.Bronson Arroyo (8-4, 4.25) will take the mound hoping to help the Reds avoid their first back-to-back losses since a three-game skid June 18-20.The right-hander allowed two hits over six innings to beat the Chicago Cubs 12-0 on Friday, throwing 89 pitches before getting pulled so he could keep his arm fresh for Cincinnati's push for its first division title since 1995."There was no reason for me to push it this time of year," Arroyo, who's 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA over his last four starts, told the Reds' official website. "Obviously we're in a different position now than we've ever been in before since I've been on this club. You have to think about further down the line. A little bit of rest could help in the future."Arroyo, who's 6-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 10 career starts against the Mets, threw a shutout in his only previous game at Citi Field, yielding four hits in a 3-0 victory July 10.Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who had two hits in his return to the lineup Tuesday after missing a week because of tightness in his lower back, is 8 for 25 with a home run and four doubles in his career against Arroyo.