NEW YORK: After coming back to beat the Diamondbacks last night, winning their first game against them in five tries, the Mets will hope it leads to a series victory this afternoon.

The Mets finished the month of July with one of baseball’s worst records, 9-17, and will now try to begin August 1-0.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the month of August. This is now the official start of baseball’s pennant race, as teams try to position themselves this month for a September run.

The Mets aren’t necessarily in the “thick” of the pennant race, but they are in it to a certain degree. A team in the pennant race is usually a team that isn’t completely out of playoff contention, which the Mets aren’t.

Entering today’s action, the Mets are 6.5 games behind in both the NL East and NL Wild Card races. They, along with the Marlins, are the last teams standing for a shot at the playoffs in the National League.

At the same time, there are seven teams all within 6.5 games, meaning it’ll take a red-hot month for the Mets to be serious contenders.

Every game now becomes more important than the previous one, and today the Mets have a great shot at winning the series and home stand. They’ll have Jon Niese on the mound, who has had a pretty good rookie season.

In his last start on Tuesday, Niese opened the home stand against the Cardinals with a victory. He won his first game in nearly a month, allowing one run in six innings for his seventh win of the season.

Niese has made 18 starts this season and seems to be getting better and stronger in each one. He generally gets a lot of outs on the ground and makes quick work of hitters, as his efficiency has been spectacular.

The only odd part of Niese’s last start was his lack of strikeouts. He only recorded one in six innings, the first time he’s pitched more than two innings and struck out only one all season.

Niese has arguably been the Mets second-most reliable starter to Johan Santana this season, and the Mets will hope that he won’t hit the proverbial rookie wall down the stretch.

On the mound for the Diamondbacks won’t be who originally was supposed to pitch, Rodrigo Lopez, but rookie Daniel Hudson.

The 23-year-old Hudson came over to Arizona a couple of days ago from the White Sox in the deal that sent Edwin Jackson the other way.

Hudson appeared in six games last season for the White Sox as a September call-up, and came up to make three starts for them this July.

He made two similarly bad starts and one quality one against the Mariners on July 19. In both of his bad starts, he allowed exactly five runs and six hits, while striking out four. His problem so far has been control, walking at least three in each start.

The Mets will be without last night’s hero Carlos Beltran, as Jerry Manuel will give him a day of rest. Other possible lineup adjustments could possibly be giving Luis Castillo a day off and reinserting Jeff Francoeur into the lineup, even against the right-handed pitcher.

Yesterday, the Diamondbacks traded for the Pirates’ Ryan Church, a former Met. He will not join the team, though, until Monday.

Today will also be a special day in Mets history as they will induct four members of the 1986 championship team into their Hall of Fame. Those members will be Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson, and Frank Cashen.

So with a lot of great aura around the stadium, the Mets will try to make the entire day special with a win, before bolting for a crucial road trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Jon Niese vs. Arizona (July 21)
ND, 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 hits, 1 BB, 6 SO, 3 HR

Daniel Hudson this season (3 starts)
*1-1, 6.32 ERA, 15.2 IP, 17 hits, 11 BB, 14 SO

*-As a member of the White Sox

2010 season series (New York vs. Arizona)

July 19: Arizona 13, New York 2
July 20: Arizona 3, New York 2
July 21: Arizona 4, New York 3 (14)

July 30: Arizona 9, New York 6
July 31: New York 5, Arizona 4

Diamondbacks lead series 4-1

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