The New York Mets may have nothing to play for in the standings, but that doesn't mean they have nothing to prove. As the season continues its tailspin, players are now playing for future jobs -- whether it's with the Mets or elsewhere -- and demonstrating their worth.
Jonathan Niese is a player who's trying to show that he can withstand the rigors of a full season, that he is durable. He'll look to build on his strong August -- and longest start of the season when he went eight and gave up one run -- on Saturday night against the Washington Nationals in D.C. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET and can be seen on WPIX.
Over the past three seasons, Niese has a combined 3.87 ERA before the All-Star break. Afterwards, it has escalated to 4.90. With a 3.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings, the left-hander has quietly become a solid young middle of the rotation piece. To reach the next level, Niese needs to sustain his success in the second half.
The Mets have already committed to a six-man rotation with R.A. Dickey working every five days, revealing that the organization has some questions about each member of the rotation outside of the knuckleballer. Still, even with the extra day of rest, Niese is on pace to set a new career high in innings, which he achieved in his first full season in 2010 when he threw 173 2/3.
Beyond individual goals, New York has proven to be a spunky bunch, despite the lack of talent and bullpen problems. It has the chance to play spoiler as the season winds down. For the Nationals, that means ruining their chances of the majors' best record, which they hold at 74-45.
Edwin Jackson will be on the mound for the Nats. Against the Mets in his career, he is 1-0 in 17 innings but has a 5.29 ERA.