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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jonathon Niese's curveball was working. His bat wasn't bad, either.
Niese pitched seven strong innings and scored after singling to lead off the seventh on Juan Lagares' go-ahead home run, helping the New York Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
Niese (3-2) improved to 5-0 in his last seven starts against Philadelphia, surrendering two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and one walk. Neither of the runs was earned.
"I felt good with all of my pitches," Niese said. "I was able to get my curveball over when I needed to."
Lagares, not known for his power, lined Aaron Harang's 1-0 pitch into the seats in the left with one out in the seventh to put the Mets up 3-2. The two-run homer, Lagares' first of the season and ninth of his career, broke an 0-for-16 skid.
"He continues to show his skills every day," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
With the Mets down a run, Collins elected to allow Niese to bat to open the seventh. His single to center set the stage for Lagares.
"I thought the score should've been 1-0 and he was throwing so good," Collins said. "He deserved to go back out there."
Said Niese, "I thought it was the right move and I appreciated it."
Harang (3-3), who was pitching on his 37th birthday, gave up three runs — two earned — and eight hits with two strikeouts and one walk in seven innings.
"It was supposed to be down and away and I totally missed my spot," Harang said of the pitch Lagares hit for the homer. "You can tell by his swing he was looking fastball."
The right-hander, who signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in the offseason, had pitched 14 1/3 scoreless innings with four hits and 14 strikeouts in his first two home starts with the Phillies.
"Harang was outstanding (except for) one high fastball he'd like to have back," Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Jeurys Familia pitched a scoreless ninth to take the league lead by converting his 12th save in as many chances.
Lagares' long ball resulted in the first two earned runs of the game.
The Mets went in front in the fifth when Ruben Tejada reached after second baseman Cesar Hernandez's fielding error on Lucas Duda's grounder should have been the third out. Hernandez was filling in for the struggling Chase Utley, who was out of the starting lineup for the third time in four days after an 0-for-4 outing Friday dropped his average to .099.
Philadelphia went ahead with two runs in the sixth inning that started with rookie second baseman Dilson Herrera's error on Ben Revere's grounder. Revere scored on Jeff Francoeur's sacrifice fly and Darin Ruf reached on Carlos Ruiz's double just inside the bag at third. It was the first error in the seventh career game for the 21-year-old Herrera, who is the youngest position player in the majors.
New York threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with one out against Luis Garcia, but pinch-hitter Johnny Monell grounded into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play in his Mets debut.
Utley snapped an 0-for-19 skid by singling off Familia in the ninth as a pinch-hitter.
"Maybe that will get him started," Sandberg said.
RAVES FOR RUBEN
Philadelphia loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning before Buddy Carlyle, the third Mets pitcher in the frame, escaped the jam by getting Ruiz to ground into a double play started by Tejada.
"It was a great play, terrific," Collins said. "He's a good player who always keeps himself ready to play."
It was just the 10th game for the reserve infielder. His reward?
"He'll play second base (Sunday)," Collins said.
Mets: Both teams rested struggling players. SS Wilmer Flores was given the night off in favor of Tejada. Flores is 3 for 28 with eight strikeouts in his last nine games. Tejada went 2 for 3 with a double.
Phillies: Sandberg kept healthy Utley and Ryan Howard out of the starting lineup due to their struggles against Niese. Utley, who got a two-game mental break earlier this week, is 3 for 32 off Niese while Howard is 4 for 26. Howard flied out in the ninth as a pinch-hitter.
Mets: RHP Bartolo Colon (5-1, 2.90) takes the mound in Sunday's series finale looking to extend his streak of 34 1/3 innings without a walk, which is the third-longest in team history.
Phillies: RHP Chad Billingsley (0-1, 9.00) is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in four career appearances against the Mets, but he hasn't pitched against them since 2009 due to two right elbow surgeries that cost him almost all of the last two seasons.
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