PITTSBURGH -- New York Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese found the perfect antidote to get back on track -- the Pittsburgh Pirates' anemic offense.
The left-hander pitched 7 2/3 strong innings, and the Mets beat the Pirates 3-1 Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park.
New York took two of three games in the series and has won three of its last four overall. The Pirates lost for the sixth time in nine games and scored two or fewer runs for the 21st time in 44 games this season.
Niese (3-2) had little problem cutting through a Pirates' offense that is last in the major leagues in runs scored and on-base percentage. He allowed one run and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Frank Francisco notched his major-league-best 12th save in 14 chances with a perfect ninth inning.
"Location, location, location," Mets manager Terry Collins said when asked what the key was to Niese's success. "He located his fastball on the outside corner, which got them looking for that pitch and set up his cutter in. He pitched great. He used a couple of curveballs that he got easy outs with. He pounded the strike zone, pounded it."
That was quite a contrast to Niese's previous outing May 18 in Toronto when he tied a career high by allowing eight runs in three innings.
"I knew that wasn't the best, my last outing," Niese said. "I wanted to put it behind me and just wanted to concentrate on fixing things."
Niese did that from a physical standpoint by concentrating on being better balanced in his delivery. However, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was pleased that Niese took his suggestion to do more mental work between starts.
"His preparation was much better," Warthen said. "He watched more video and had a good idea of how to attack their hitters."
Niese, who lauded catcher Rob Johnson's game-calling, admits he is not the most studious of pitchers because he worries about the potential for information overload.
"I did a lot more preparation this go-around but I still had to trust my stuff," Niese said. "I still had to have confidence in my pitches. I didn't want to go away from my strengths. I want the hitters to adjust to me instead of me adjusting to them.
"I pay attention to (batters' tendencies), but sometimes I get so focused on executing pitches that it's kind of tough to think about something else."
Niese certainly executed against the Pirates.
"He was very effective, kept the ball down, bought some territory from time to time inside with the cutter," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "He mixed in all his pitches, and we weren't able to put good swings on it. That was pretty obvious."
The Mets built a 3-0 lead against Charlie Morton (2-5) by scoring once in the first inning and twice in the fifth.
Morton has lost all four of his May starts and has allowed a first-inning run in each of them. On Wednesday, he gave up three runs on eight hits in seven innings with no walks and one strikeout.
The Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the Pirates' Clint Barmes each had two hits.
Nieuwenhuis singled with one out in the first, took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on David Wright's fly out and scored on Lucas Duda's ground single to right.
In the fifth, Johnson led off with a single, was bunted to second by Niese, advanced to third on Mike Baxter's single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Nieuwenhuis. Wright followed with an RBI double off the right-field fence.
Down 3-0, Pittsburgh got its run in the sixth when Josh Harrison hit a leadoff double to extend his hitting streak to nine games, then scored on Andrew McCutchen's single.
NOTES: Mets CF Andres Torres wasn't in the starting lineup for a second straight day. He is mired in a 1-for-34 slump that has dropped his batting average to .187. ... The Pirates activated RHP Jason Grilli from the bereavement list and optioned LHP Jeff Locke to Triple-A Indianapolis. Grilli pitched one inning of relief, striking out the side in the eighth. ... The Mets open an 11-game home stand Thursday night, their longest of the season, when they meet San Diego in the first game of a four-game series. RHP Jeremy Hefner (0-1, 2.25) is scheduled to start for New York against LHP Eric Stults (0-0, 2.70). Philadelphia and St. Louis also visit Citi Field. ... Pittsburgh is off Thursday then hosts the Chicago Cubs for a three-game series beginning Friday night with RHP A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78) facing RHP Ryan Dempster (0-2, 2.28).
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