The pennant hopes of the Giants and Mets were squashed more than a month ago, but to the players in those clubhouses, there's still plenty to play for over the next week and a half.
"We can get ready for next year and use this year as motivation to prepare," said Giants outfielder Angel Pagan, whose return from hamstring surgery has been a spark for the club's recent surge.
The Giants had their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night, when the Mets rallied for four runs in the ninth inning. Now it's the Mets looking to start a streak of their own, and they send left-hander Jon Niese to the mound.
Since Niese made his return from a partially torn rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder, Niese has been very sharp. He is 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA in seven starts and has struck out 44, while walking just 10.
In his most recent outing, Niese surrendered two home runs to Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but was otherwise solid in a win against the Marlins. He lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs.
"I felt that my curveball had a little bit more bite to it," Niese said after the start. "You just find out what works, and today the curveball worked a little bit better than it had earlier in the year. For the most part, I was able to throw it where I wanted to today."
Fellow southpaw Madison Bumgarner opposes Niese. Bumgarner has been a consistent bright spot in the Giants' pitching staff this season and has gone 18 consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs. That's the longest such streak by a Giants starter since Tim Lincecum did so between the 2007 and '08 seasons.
Giants: Affeldt likely out for season
Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt will likely miss the rest of the season because of a right groin injury.
The veteran southpaw has pitched just once since July 20, and if he doesn't take the mound again, he'll end the year with a 3.74 ERA in 39 appearances.
"I don't know if he'll pitch again," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He has to be 100 percent."
Mets: d'Arnaud taking a beating
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud says he has been hit by more foul tips and backswings in recent weeks than he can recall, and attributed it to "randomness, part of catching."
But Mets manager Terry Collins thinks there may be more to it. He says d'Arnaud will likely receive a few more nicks than the average catcher because of the proximity of his crouch to home plate.
"You worry about it a little bit if there's some injuries that are going to occur," Collins said. "But right now, he's been fine with it."
• In eight at-bats against Niese, Giants catcher Buster Posey has four hits, including two doubles and a homer.
• San Francisco outfielder Hunter Pence has driven in 20 runs in his last eight games, though he had his streak of seven straight contests with an RBI snapped Wednesday.
• Mets outfielder Eric Young Jr. has 23 steals in the second half, including 10 in his last 21 games, to lead the Majors since the break.