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Jon Niese fans seven over 6 1/3 solid frames

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins lit into his team following the Mets' loss to the Phillies on Thursday, labeling its recent play as "unacceptable" and refusing to defend his players when asked pressing questions as to whether his team has quit on the season.

Collins was apologetic before Friday's series opener against Miami -- the skipper individually met with every member of his team to ensure them that accountability falls on all shoulders, not just the players. The criticism was a motivational tool born out of frustration. New York's post All-Star Game woes, especially at home, have left the second-year manager still searching for answers and solutions as to just why his team has struggled like it has.

But apologetic or not, Collins' reaction lit a spark.

Behind Jon Niese's career-high 12th victory, the Mets struck early and defeated the Marlins, 7-3, while snapping a few skids in the process. The Mets had lost nine straight games at Citi Field and didn't score more than three runs in 16 consecutive home games prior to Friday. It was their first series-opening win at home in their last 11 tries.

"More today, me going and making sure that they know I support them and I respect them in every way," Collins said about what inspired the Mets' performance on Friday. "I've said all year that they're a tremendous bunch of guys. It's a great clubhouse, and they just came out today and played like I know they can."

Niese allowed all three Marlins runs, but his 6 1/3 innings were much needed. New York used nine relievers on Thursday after starter Jeremy Hefner didn't record an out in the first inning, but needed just two on Friday.

Niese's success this season has been a direct result of limiting the big inning. He'll bend, but won't break, and his seven consecutive quality starts -- and 21 on the year -- are a perfect demonstration of that.

"It feels good," Niese said. "I don't look at the win-loss column too much. It's kind of nice to have 12 wins, but I just go out there and try and execute my pitches and keep the team in the game to give the team the best chance to win."

As far as the Mets have fallen since the Midsummer Classic, they never slipped into last place. The Marlins have been near or in the basement for the entire second half, and their play on Friday gave a glimpse as to why.

Of the six runs New York plated off starter Jacob Turner, only three were earned. In the second inning, shortstop Jose Reyes was charged with an error after he skipped a throw to third base, which led to a run when Turner threw a wild pitch in the ensuing at-bat. New York tacked on its sixth run in the fifth after Daniel Murphy struck out but reached first on a passed ball, then scored courtesy of a Scott Hairston triple three batters later.

Even the three runs the Mets scored in the first were initially scored as unearned. Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano was originally charged with an error after missing a hard-hit ball by Ike Davis -- Hairston hit a two-run homer in the next at-bat -- but the official scorer changed the call and ruled it a single in the next inning.

"You look around the game, they should have only scored one run," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We don't catch the ball at second base, then a home run. We make a couple mental mistakes out there, and it cost us more runs. The kid pitched well. We just played bad baseball. Very bad."

Hairston finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBIs. Davis launched a solo shot -- his 28th homer of the season -- to the second deck in right field for the Mets' seventh and final run.

The only Mets player not celebrating after the game was Lucas Duda, whose failure to run out a routine popup that managed to find the outfield grass led to Collins' decision to pull him from the game an inning later.

"As I told him when he came off the field, we made a statement here," Collins said. "We're not going to play the game like that, especially not right now. Had we won 10 of our last 12 or 15 of our last 20, you can kind of turn your head, but I couldn't turn my head tonight."

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