The most important thing was...
That Jon Niese was great tonight. Reading the box score in the morning newspaper tomorrow will not give a fair indication of how good the kid was tonight.
He allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings, but it could easily have been way better than that. David Wright and Fernando Tatis could have (and probably should have, especially in Wright's case) stopped those sharply hit ground balls in the first inning. If Luis Castillo didn't have the range of a beached whale (too soon?) he could have stopped Cameron Maybin's grounder in the fifth inning.
Nonetheless, he delivered a quality start for us in his first start of the year after suffering a gruesome injury which ended his 2009 season. Going into spring training, Manuel was skeptical that Niese would even be able to compete for a job. But there he was, opening series of the year, standing on the mound at Citifield and trying to stop a losing streak from starting. Major thumbs up from me.
He pitched inside and outside. He threw three pitches. Most importantly, he pitched with purpose. He stood on that mound and he challenged hitters, he worked fast, and he did hos job. His strikeout of Hanley Ramirez in the fifth inning - when he busted the reigning NL batting champ in on his hands - was particularly impressive.
The guy who Niese really reminded me of tonight was Andy Pettitte. Yankee fans, feel free to give me the thumbs up or down on this one if you disagree. But Niese is a big boy, and he seems to have a bulldog mentality on the mound out there. He's lefthanded, he throws a good cutter, and he challenges you with only fringe-good "stuff".
Jon Niese knew what he had to do out there tonight. He went out there and he said to everyone, "I deserve this roster spot." Niese is going to get out there every fifth day and he is probably going to deliver a performance just like this. Keith Hernandez opined tonight that Niese "will have his ups and downs," and he is correct. There will be bumps in the road. But I really like what I saw tonight from our young lefthander.