After losing consecutive games Thursday and Friday, the Mets needed Jon Niese to pull out the win Saturday in his second start of the season.
A win meant saving his club from dropping its first series of the season, and if that was not enough pressure, the Marlins' pestering him for eight hits off an array of bloops and bleeders put even more on the lefty's plate.
Having lost back-to-back games again, the Mets will need the same kind of resolve Niese showed Saturday.
Whereas earlier in his career he might have cracked, Niese managed to limit the damage Saturday with just two runs (one earned) through six innings while striking out five. As he takes the mound Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET, he will face the Twins for just the second time in his career in what is expected to be nearly freezing temperatures.
With five inches of heavy snow falling Thursday in the Twin Cities, crews worked all day at Target Field removing snow from seats and other areas of the ballpark in preparation for the game.
Niese controlled that first matchup, in 2010, with a similar performance -- five strikeouts and six scoreless innings.
The Twins will answer with Vance Worley, who will look to bounce back from a rocky bout against the Orioles on Saturday. Worley allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in five innings.
Worley is 3-3 in his career against the Mets, having allowed 22 earned runs and 52 hits through 38 1/3 innings. The right-hander has struggled early through two starts this year; he has worked a combined 11 innings with opponents hitting .360 against him. The numbers are due at least in part to Worley's aggressiveness to contact. Worley has surrendered just two walks this season and owns a career 18-14 record with a 3.59 ERA.
Mets: Switched-up lineup
The Mets used their fourth different leadoff hitter in five games Wednesday, slotting Jordany Valdespin first against the Phillies. Manager Terry Collins has said he values on-base ability foremost in a leadoff man, previously giving Mike Baxter the role, but lately has been changing his stance.
"They're two different guys," Collins said. "Baxter gives us that steadiness. Jordany, because he's a different kind of player, can maybe ignite you early by hitting a double or hitting one over the fence in the first inning. He's got that kind of capability."
Twins: Diamond returns
Twins starter Scott Diamond is set to take the mound this weekend, making his first appearance after recovering from left elbow surgery. The left-hander had a promising season in 2012, going a team-best 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA.
"He led by example," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Scotty studies the game and prepares very well for the opposing team. He got us deep into games and won his fair share of them. He stepped up and did a real nice job for us. You have to be able to work both sides of the plate and Scotty does that."
Diamond was a workhorse for Minnesota with a team-high 173 innings and was expected to start on Opening Day for the Twins before the injury.
The Mets and Twins entered Wednesday's game with the highest and second-highest walk totals in the league, respectively. Josh Willingham enters Friday's game with eight walks, tied with Albert Pujols for most in the American League, while Lucas Duda leads the Mets with seven walks.