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PIT@NYM: Niese allows two runs over 5 2/3 innings

After getting 17 innings out of their bullpen during back-to-back 14-inning, five-plus-hour marathons the last two days, the Mets will need significant length out of their starter when they take on the Phillies at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday. And they might have the best option for the job on the mound: Jon Niese.

When performance and health are taken into consideration, Niese has been the Mets' top starter in 2014, putting up a 2.74 ERA and 1.17 WHIP while averaging nearly 6 1/3 innings per outing. Those effective numbers hold up in his two starts against Philly this season: four runs on 12 hits while striking out 11 in 13 innings. The better of those two games came at Citizens Bank Park, the same park where he will face fellow southpaw Cole Hamels on Sunday afternoon.

Recent results, though, haven't been so great. Niese hasn't made it through six innings in two of his last three tries, including his last time out against the Pirates, when he cruised through five innings, but walked the bases loaded in the sixth. He wound up yielding two runs on three hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames.

"In my time with Jon Niese, I have not seen that," Mets manager Terry Collins said after Niese's sudden loss of command. "I don't have an answer for you because that is one thing he does not do. He might give up some hits and he might hang his cutter or slider and give up a home run, but he does not walk people. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't."

A win would be significant for the Mets, who are trying to take a second consecutive series for what would be the first time since late April. They took two of three from the Pirates earlier this week, then two of the first three in this five-game set with the Phillies.

In order to do that, though, they will have to go through Hamels, who has been even better -- or more efficient, at least -- than Niese of late. He's lasted seven innings in each of his last four starts, including a one-run, 10-strikeout effort against the Mets on May 11 to kick off that stretch.

His Tuesday start, an eventual loss to the Rockies, was better than the box score indicates. He allowed one run through 6 2/3 before a three-run home run and one final strikeout made it four runs in seven innings.

"You just have to get that pitch down," Hamels said of the homer. "You are in a situation where if the pitch is down, it is a definite different result. It was just a poorly executed pitch."

Hamels will look to continue a quirky Phillies streak. Since May 23, they have alternated wins and losses each day. Philadelphia hasn't won on back-to-back days since May 17-18 against the Reds.

Mets: Carlyle, Eveland brought in to rescue tired bullpen
After emptying their bullpen in Friday's 14-inning loss to the Phillies -- but before emptying it again Saturday -- the Mets made a move to replenish it.

The team selected the contract of right-hander Buddy Carlyle from Triple-A Las Vegas, optioning starter Rafael Montero to Vegas and shifting Daisuke Matsuzaka into the rotation for at least one turn. Carlyle arrived in Philadelphia not long before the start of Saturday's game, giving the Mets an all-important safety net heading into it. He threw three scoreless innings Saturday to pick up his first Major League win since 2008.

After Saturday's 14-inning contest, the Mets will fly in left-hander Dana Eveland to New York in advance of Sunday's game. The team has not announced a corresponding move.

The Mets leaned on their bullpen for 7 2/3 innings in Saturday's game. Carlyle got the win, tossing three scoreless innings.

Phillies: Brown hopes to keep progressing
Often when Domonic Brown takes one step forward this season, he's taken another two steps back the following game. Friday night was a step forward. In Saturday's loss to the Mets, he continued his hot hitting.

The left fielder's batting average dipped to .199 after a fly out to left in his first at-bat on Friday, but his ride on the interstate was short-lived. In his next plate appearance, Brown connected on a 2-0 fastball for a three-run home run, his fourth homer of the season.

"All I can do is just play hard and keep doing little things," Brown said. "Getting here early, preparing the right way, just keep having fun. I think that eventually, things will start to click."

Earlier in the week, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Brown was getting pitches to hit, but was having trouble "connecting." After Friday night, Sandberg said the key for Brown was establishing a hitter's count.

"It was good to see," Sandberg said. "That's the type of swing and type of game that can boost his confidence. Something I was hoping for or looking for. It was right at the right time."

Brown went 1-for-5 with a walk and a ninth-inning, game-tying RBI single Saturday.

Worth noting
• Sandberg said on Friday that Jimmy Rollins -- hitting .158 (6-for-38) in his last nine games -- is about due for a day off. Given that the shortstop started Friday and Saturday, Sunday could be that day.

• Ryan Howard's three-run homer Saturday gave him 1,000 RBIs for his career.

• In 17 weekend games this season, the Phillies have posted a .706 winning percentage (12-5).

• David Wright finished May with a .320 average and three homers on the month. He hit .245 with no homers in April.

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