The Mets' season has been littered with questions concerning the pitching staff -- Who is the closer? When is Dillon Gee coming back? When will Noah Syndergaard come up? -- but at least once every five games, when left-hander Jon Niese takes the mound, they don't have to worry about any of that.
Sunday is another one of those days. Niese will look to continue his streak of starts -- currently at 18 -- in which he's allowed three earned runs or fewer, this time against rookie righty Anthony DeSclafani and the Marlins, who will try to salvage a split of the four-game series.
Niese's lengthy run -- which includes seven shutout innings against the Marlins on May 5 -- nearly ended his last time out, on Tuesday, when he yielded five runs (three earned) to the Cardinals in six innings. It was the only occasion in the last month in which he allowed more than two runs -- earned or unearned -- and the 11th in 14 starts this season he lasted at least six innings.
Niese, who has been the staff's ace this season, has a 2.67 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, but averages only three runs of support per start.
"I feel like I've been pitching well, just not well enough," Niese said after his most recent outing. "I had a lot of chances to close out the games. I've just got to do a better job of focusing when we have the lead, just putting up zeros."
Outings as steady as Niese's are something any young pitcher would want to emulate, and the Marlins would be thrilled if DeSclafani could give them anything close. Miami, which is seeking consistency from its young starters, is 3-6 during a 10-game homestand that ends on Sunday.
"I want to be consistent," DeSclafani said. "Keep my team in the game and give the team a chance to win."
DeSclafani will be making his fourth big league start, and the second in his second stint with the Major League team. Miami recalled the 24-year-old from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday to take Randy Wolf's spot in the rotation.
DeSclafani picked up his lone big league win in his debut, at Dodger Stadium on May 14. His other two starts were at Marlins Park, thus he is still seeking his first home victory, fresh off a 6 1/3-inning outing against the Cubs in which he gave up four runs.
"It's a great stadium," DeSclafani, a New Jersey native who attended the University of Florida, said of Marlins Park. "Indoors. I like pitching here. Big ballpark -- can't really complain about that."
Mets: Granderson batting leadoff, getting on base
Mets manager Terry Collins put Curtis Granderson in the leadoff spot on Saturday for just the fourth time this season. Granderson entered Saturday leading the National League with a .465 June OBP and second in the Majors with 15 walks this month. Recognizing how hot he's been, Collins was compelled to pencil him in at the top.
"That's what it came down to," Collins said. "He's third in the league in walks, he's swinging good. It just all came to, 'Let's see if we can get this guy up there some more.' Basically, it's a pretty nice situation. You've got Grandy who's getting on base, [Daniel] Murphy who's getting on base, and here comes David [Wright, batting third]."
Granderson went 0-for-3 in Saturday's 4-0 win.
Marlins: Marisnick adds threat of speed
Less than a week after being called up from Triple-A New Orleans, Jake Marisnick is tied for third on the team in stolen bases.
Marisnick has swiped four bags, which matches shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Christian Yelich paces the club with 10, and Yelich's fellow outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has six.
Marisnick, for the most part, has the green light to go when he sees fit.
"I told him I want him to go out there and be aggressive," said skipper Mike Redmond, who managed Marisnick in the Minor Leagues, in the Blue Jays' system. "I've seen him run the bases a lot."
• Hechavarria was scratched from the lineup on Saturday due to a sore right elbow. If he isn't ready for the series finale, Ed Lucas, who started instead, is the likely replacement.
• Second baseman Rafael Furcal exited Saturday's game after three innings with undisclosed injuries to his left hamstring and calf, sustained while trying to leg out a double-play grounder. Jeff Baker replaced Furcal, who is expected to be placed on the disabled list on Sunday.
• Marcell Ozuna's single in the seventh inning snapped an 0-for-7 slide.
• Prior to Saturday's contest, the Mets scored three runs or fewer in each of their previous seven games. They were 3-4 in those games.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.