NEW YORK — Kirk Nieuwenhuis has learned not to take anything for granted, especially after the rollercoaster ride this season has been.
After being reacquired by the New York Mets on June 13, Nieuwenhuis was finally able to enjoy an afternoon at the ballpark.
Nieuwenhuis homered three times, to help the suddenly red-hot Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 on Sunday and complete a three-game sweep to close out the first half.
"It does put it into perspective," he said regarding his journey. "There's more to life than baseball and sometimes that's really hard to feel and to realize as players. Just happy to be back with these guys and go to battle with them."
Nieuwenhuis had just three hits in 38 at-bats before being designated for assignment by the Mets on May 19. New York reacquired the outfielder after the Angels waived him and was only 7-for-66 on the season before today.
"I thought 'wow, that was interesting'," he said about being reacquired by the team that drafted him. "But I was super-happy to come back and see familiar faces."
Nieuwenhuis homered twice off Diamondbacks starter Rubby De La Rosa (6-5), in the second and third innings and once off reliever Randall Delgado in the fifth. His homer off Delgado rang off the right field foul ball and drew a curtain call from the cheering crowd of 28,259.
"The curtain call was unbelievable," he said. "Something I won't forget for a really long time; that was special."
With a chance to tie the major league record of four home runs in a game, last matched by Josh Hamilton in 2012, Nieuwenhuis struck out against left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin.
The outfielder's effort backed Jonathon Niese, who was starting in place of the injured Steven Matz. Niese (5-8) allowed three runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings.
"We stuck to the game plan and executed pitches when I needed to," Niese said.
Niese extended the brilliant run the Mets starters have had in recent weeks. They've allowed 19 earned runs over their last 109 2-3 innings.
"(As a staff) We got a lot of confidence in our stuff," Niese said. "We just go out there and we attack hitters. We're having a lot of success."
Nieuwenhuis' effort marked the first time any Met had ever homered three times in a home game. Nieuwenhuis is the 10th player in Mets history with a three-homer game and the first since Ike Davis accomplished the feat on July 28, 2012 at Arizona.
"He hasn't had a chance to shine and today he sure did," Arizona manager Chip Hale said. "I've known him since I was a coach (in New York). He got into good counts and got the head out and did a nice job. He's a great kid."
Daniel Murphy also homered for the Mets and all 13 runs produced by the team in the series were via home runs. The Mets have now hit 16 home runs off Diamondbacks pitching, the most against any other team.
After Nieuwenhus' first blast opened scoring in the second, the Diamondbacks scratched out a run when Chris Owings lead off the third with a double and scored on Nick Ahmed's groundout to short.
Paul Goldschmidt snapped out of a 0-for-8 skid with a long home run in the fourth.
After David Peralta's two-out, RBI single in the seventh, Jenrry Mejia made his first appearance of the season, retiring Owings on a flyball to Curtis Granderson to end the threat. Mejia had served a 80-game suspension for using Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing drug.
Bobby Parnell worked around a two-out walk to All-Star A.J. Pollock, helped by a diving catch in foul territory by first baseman Lucas Duda.
Jeurys Familia pitched the ninth for his 27th save in 29 chances. Familia closed all three games in the series.
The Mets finish the first half with a record of 47-42, an improvement on the 45-50 mark at the break last season.
"To finish out the first half like this is pretty cool," Collins said.
Mets: OF Michael Cuddyer (knee) was held out of the lineup after starting back-to-back games. Manager Terry Collins said, "it was a good day to get his lefties in there" against De La Rosa, but also suggested that giving Cuddyer an extra day off, because of knee, made sense.
Diamondbacks: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (blister) wore a band-aid on his injured finger and threw a side session before the game. Prior to the game, manager Chip Hale indicated that depending on how the session went, changes might have to be made to his post All-Star game rotation. Shortly before first pitch, the Diamondbacks announced that Hellickson, who was scheduled to pitch the team's second game after the break, would switch places with Chase Anderson and pitch the fifth game instead.
Mets: After the All-Star break, the Mets begin a stretch of ten games in ten days against the three first place teams in the National League, with the first six coming on the road. The Mets will travel to St. Louis to begin the second half, taking on the Cardinals.
Diamondbacks: Following the break, the Diamondbacks begin a 10-game homestand. The San Francisco Giants are first up on the schedule, for a three-game NL West matchup.