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NYM@MIL: Niese tosses five strong frames vs. Brewers

The Mets are four games under .500 while the Giants sit just a few games back of the first-place Dodgers, but both teams have been trending in opposite directions recently.

New York took its first home series post-All-Star break with an 11-2 victory over the Phillies and has won three of its last four. The Giants, before salvaging their series finale with the Pirates, 7-5, had lost six in a row. After a day off Thursday, both will battle it out at Citi Field on Friday for a weekend series.

The Mets will start Jon Niese, who was chased from his last outing Saturday against the Brewers after five innings and 89 pitches when manager Terry Collins opted to pinch-hit for the right-hander.

Niese surrendered three runs in the bottom of the fifth to relinquish a two-run New York lead, but after the game, he voiced his opinions about getting pulled so early in the contest.

"I thought I should've been out there," said Niese. "I could've went one or two more."

The Mets went on to lose the game, 5-2, and a day after the performance, Collins commended Niese's competitive attitude.

"I've known Niese long enough, he never wants to come out," Collins said. "I love that about him. He wants to continue to pitch. He thinks he can continue to put up zeros, and he probably will."

Niese did just that against San Francisco in early June, limiting the Giants to two runs on five hits over seven innings at AT&T Park. He owns a career 2.88 ERA and 1.17 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) against the Giants in six games (five starts).

Overall this season, Niese averages six innings per outing and has allowed more than three earned runs just once. That game came July 21 against the Mariners, who scored four times against the southpaw.

Niese will match up with struggling Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong on Friday. The right-hander is 5-8 with a 3.94 ERA in 2014 but hasn't won a decision since June 21.

After decent month of July that saw him allow 12 runs in five starts, Vogelsong has been stricken by an anemic Giants offense, which has scored in only one of his five July starts.

Mets: Chris Young starting consistently again
Chris Young's 2014 struggles led to a significant decrease in playing time the first half of July -- he started three times in 12 games -- but Collins has put an end to that trend since the All-Star break. Young has found his way into the lineup five straight days and seven of the last nine games.

Like the rest of his season, though, that stretch of playing time has had its up and downs.

Young went 1-for-10 over three games from July 21 to July 24 before doubling in four straight at-bats on consecutive nights Saturday and Sunday at the Brewers. Since, he is 2-for-14 with an RBI and two runs scored, including a 1-for-5 performance in Wednesday's win.

Young is hitting .205 with a .285 on-base percentage this season. Those clips are up a tick in July (.216 batting average with a .318 on-base percentage).

Giants: Belt and Pagan ramp up injury recovery
First baseman Brandon Belt continued to increase his baseball-related activities Wednesday, creating the possibility that he could play during the team's series against the Mets.

Belt's recovering from a concussion that has sidelined him since July 19. That mishap closely followed his 50-game layoff with a fractured left thumb. Should his condition keep improving, the Giants' braintrust must decide whether he's sharp enough to return directly to the Giants or must sharpen his skills in the Minor Leagues on an injury rehabilitation assignment, manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy acknowledged there's a "better chance" of seeing both Belt and center fielder Angel Pagan in uniform next week in Milwaukee, which is the Giants' series following the Mets encounter.

Worth noting
• Ruben Tejada was back at shortstop for the Mets in the series finale with the Phillies on Wednesday. Tejada, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI in the contest, has evenly split playing time with Wilmer Flores since the latter was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas last week.

• In 12 at bats against Niese, Buster Posey is hitting .333 with a home run.

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