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PHI@NYM: Niese pitches six quality innings

Jon Niese may not be the oldest member of the Mets' rotation, but he is certainly its elder statesman.

As injuries continue to reshape New York's starting five, Niese will take the mound Friday as by far its longest-tenured member. He has made 125 career starts for the Mets over the past seven seasons; none of the team's other four starters have been on the roster for more than 11 months. Three of them debuted for New York this season, including rookies Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, who both made their first big league starts this week.

Niese has also been one of the club's most successful pitchers over that span. Off to a white-hot start this year, Niese has shrugged aside shoulder and elbow issues to post a 2.17 ERA over his first seven starts. Last time out, Niese submitted his worst -- and that's a relative term -- start of the year against the Phillies: Six innings and three runs in a no-decision.

"I feel good," said Niese, who is just 2-2 despite six quality starts in seven tries. "I really don't care where my wins and losses are -- just as long as the team's winning, that's fine with me. I've been feeling good. I want to get my innings in and I want them to be quality."

He will open the Mets' series at Nationals Park opposite right-hander Tanner Roark, who has also been terrific more often than not. Twelve of the 18 runs against Roark this season came in two outings; in the other five, he is 2-0 with a 1.51 ERA.

"Me and [catcher Wilson Ramos] were on the same page," Roark said of his last start, in which he limited the A's to one run over 7 2/3 innings. "So when you get that rhythm and that tempo going and you don't have to shake anything off, that's perfect."

Although Roark is one of the most talented pitchers on the Nats, two years ago it seemed doubtful he would even have a big league career. Roark lost 17 games with Triple-A Syracuse in 2012, and he was blaming everybody but himself.

But then Roark had a heart-to-heart talk with assistant general manager Doug Harris, then-manager Tony Beasley and then-pitching coach Greg Booker. The trio told Roark to focus on making each pitch count and not worry about anything else. They told Roark that since he can't control what happens behind him, he might as well not worry about it.

"I was being selfish, I guess," Roark said. "Little things would happen -- bloop hits. I would be getting it in my own head and saying, 'Why is he getting on?' I was trying really hard. We all sat down, it was an emotional meeting. We talked it through. ... I never went through anything like that before. It was good for me. That's what turned my career around -- the mental aspect of the game."

"It was about him understanding who he was, what he needed to do to be successful," Harris said. "Tanner did a terrific job, taking and applying [what we said]. He was in a funk. He really did a nice job battling his way out of it. He really found himself."

Mets: d'Arnaud to DL with concussion
The Mets placed catcher Travis d'Arnaud on the seven-day concussion disabled list Thursday, retroactive to May 14. d'Arnaud was still feeling concussion symptoms after taking an Alfonso Soriano backswing off his helmet Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

"He's still feeling the effects," general manager Sandy Alderson said.

To replace d'Arnaud, the Mets recalled catcher Juan Centeno from Triple-A Las Vegas. He and regular backup Anthony Recker will split time behind the plate in d'Arnaud's absence.

Nationals: McLouth back in business
Outfielder Nate McLouth returned to the starting lineup Wednesday, finishing 1-for-4 against the D-backs. McLouth had been nursing a sore right index finger, which kept him out of the lineup Tuesday.

McLouth may be off to a slow start, batting .117 in 60 at-bats, but he is fourth on the team with 10 walks.

"I wouldn't say I have swung the bat well, but my at-bats haven't been awful," McLouth said. "I have a lot of walks. I finally [got some hits] through the hole the last couple of nights, but I'm OK."

Worth noting
• Mets pitchers are no longer 0-for-the season. Rookie Jacob deGrom snapped the staff's hitless streak in his first big league plate appearance, singling to end the Mets' streak at 0-for-64. The 1914 Cleveland Naps hold the longest streak (0-for-92) in big league history.

• Through 40 games, reliever Tyler Clippard leads the Nationals with four wins. Relief pitchers have accounted for 11 of the staff's 21 victories. Among pitchers with at least 16 innings, Clippard ranks ninth in the Majors with 12.67 strikeouts per nine.

• Nats outfielder Jayson Werth homered Wednesday and has reached base safely in 21 of his last 22 games.

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