Nieuwenhuis hit solo homers in the second and fifth innings and added a two-run shot in the third as part of a four-RBI day that ended an otherwise rough first half on a storybook note. Entering play Sunday, Nieuwenhuis sported just a .091 batting average.
"That's why it's a great game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You don't have any answers for it. Nobody knows what is going to happen on a daily basis."
That quickly changed when Nieuwenhuis lined two opposite-field homers in his first two at-bats against D-backs starter Rubby De La Rosa. Lefties entered play hitting .298 against De La Rosa, which prompted Collins to start Nieuwenhuis and let right-handed-hitting Michael Cuddyer rest his still sore left knee. Collins looked like a genius when Daniel Murphy added to Nieuwenhuis' barrage with a solo homer of his own. The Mets' last 15 runs have come via the long ball.
De La Rosa lasted just 3 2/3 innings and took his fifth loss, while Niese improved to 5-8 by holding Arizona to three runs in 6 2/3 frames. Jenrry Mejia recorded an out in his season debut, Bobby Parnell survived a scoreless eighth and Jeurys Familia recorded his 27th save to give New York its seventh win in nine games headed into the All-Star break. Arizona received a solo home run from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
"The guys battled," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "Again we had the tying run come to the plate. Niese did a nice job of mixing speeds and locations and Goldy hit the home run and we had some good at-bats, I thought."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Niese in solid form: The lefty wasn't as dominant as he was in his last start, but recorded his second consecutive win. Niese struck out three and didn't walk a batter, while recording nine ground-ball outs. He also slapped a single to left, making it four straight games Mets pitchers have recorded a hit.
"It was a good way to end the first half," Niese said.
Rubby struggles: When a game gets away from De La Rosa, it can happen in a hurry. In a four-batter span in the third, the game went from being tied at 1 to the Mets hitting a pair of homers and scoring three runs to take command.
"Today wasn't my best day," De La Rosa said. "I think, in trying to keep the ball down, I kept a couple of balls up and I paid the price for that." More >
Mejia makes debut: Mejia was reinstated from his 80-game PED suspension on Tuesday, but hadn't appeared in a game yet due to consecutive strong outings from Mets starters. Collins insisted before Sunday's game that Mejia would pitch no matter what, and he did. Mejia stranded a runner on second when he retired Chris Owings, representing the tying run, to end the seventh. It was Mejia's first Major League action since Sept. 28 of last season. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The umpires convened in the second inning to make sure Nieuwenhuis' first homer cleared the orange indicator outlining the top of the left-field fence. After a crew-chief review of 46 seconds, the call was confirmed as a home run. His other two blasts proved less debatable. Video: ARI@NYM: Umpires confirm Nieuwenhuis' solo homer
WHAT'S NEXT D-backs: The D-backs open the second half Friday night against the Giants at Chase Field, with first pitch at 6:40 p.m. MST. Lefty Robbie Ray will get the start for the D-backs in his first career appearance against San Francisco.
Mets: New York enters the break with a winning record for the first time since 2012. The Mets are 47-42, two games back of first-place Washington. They will kick off the second half with a three-game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, starting Friday at 8:10 ET.