Barry Zito may have trouble following a spectacular pitching matchup that involved his San Francisco Giants in their last game. Zito and the New York Mets' Jonathon Niese, however, once put together a pretty good duel of their own.
Zito seeks a third straight outstanding outing Friday night when he opposes Niese, who has also pitched well in his first two games, in the opener of a four-game series at Citi Field.
Zito (1-0, 1.13 ERA) followed a shutout of Colorado in his season debut with another strong outing Sunday, going seven innings and giving up two earned runs in a 4-3 home win over Pittsburgh. He is off to an excellent start as he looks to bounce back from a 2011 season in which he posted a 5.87 ERA.
Niese (2-0, 2.13) beat Philadelphia 5-0 on Sunday, lasting 6 2-3 innings and striking out five with one walk after a solid six-inning effort in a victory over Atlanta on April 8.
The two left-handers will take the mound two days after one of the most spectacularly pitched games in recent years, a 1-0, 11-inning Giants win over the Phillies on Wednesday. San Francisco's Matt Cain pitched nine innings and Philadelphia's Cliff Lee went 10 in a game that ended with the Giants (6-6) earning their second straight victory.
Melky Cabrera's RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off Antonio Bastardo finally ended the pitching dominance.
"This is the type of game that hopefully will give them some confidence," manager Bruce Bochy told the team's official website after the Giants completed a 4-2 homestand.
Zito and Niese have faced each other once before, a 1-0 Giants home win July 16, 2010, that was Niese's only start against San Francisco. Zito pitched eight innings and gave up two hits with 10 strikeouts, besting Niese's seven-inning, one-run effort.
The Mets (7-5) could use a similar outing from their young starter as they look to rebound from back-to-back lopsided losses to the Braves. New York fell 14-6 on Wednesday, a day after getting beat 9-3, and closed its road trip at 3-3.
"Anytime you'll take .500 on the road, but because we got started on the trip so well, it's a little disappointing the way it ended the last two days," manager Terry Collins said.
Collins' club has lost three of four, posting a 6.55 ERA in that span.
The bright spot for the Mets on Wednesday was David Wright, who continued his scorching start with three RBIs and tied Darryl Strawberry for the team record at 733. Wright has recorded at least one hit in every game this season and is batting .500.
"We're very happy for him," Collins said. "He came into spring training bound and determined to have a big year. He's off to a great start and it's fun to watch him play."
The Mets dropped the season series 4-2 to the Giants in 2011 and have lost eight of the last 11 matchups. They've lost three of their last four at home in the series.
Cabrera is 3 for 7 with a double against Niese.
Mets catcher Josh Thole, batting .355, has reached base in all 11 games he's played. Rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a six-game hitting streak in which he's batting .450.
Zito hasn't pitched at least seven innings in three straight starts since a four-game run April 18-May 5, 2010. He's 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in six starts versus New York.
Former Met Angel Pagan makes his return to Citi Field after being dealt to the Giants in the offseason. He's batting .348 during a five-game hitting streak.
The Associated Press News Service
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