NEW YORK (AP) - Maybe the Mets should have moved the fences in farther.
Homer Bailey pitched out of trouble for eight innings, taking advantage of Citi Field's ample dimensions, and Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer that carried the Cincinnati Reds past New York 4-1 on Saturday night for their fifth straight victory.
``We hit a lot of balls hard that got caught. And those are game-changers,' Mets first baseman Ike Davis said. ``We felt like we had some pretty good at_bats today. A lot of lineouts, a lot of flyouts to the wall. A little bit to the left, a little bit to the right, we have a lot more runs on the board.'
New York starter Jonathon Niese (4-3) made one big mistake to Bruce during seven otherwise effective innings. He struck out seven and walked one but lost for the first time in six starts at home this season.
The left-hander was 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his previous four outings overall and had not allowed an earned run in 13 innings this month before Bruce connected on a breaking ball in the first.
``I don't regret throwing the pitch. I regret hanging it on the inside part of the plate,' Niese said. ``Hindsight's 20-20. I probably should have thrown a fastball up and in and been done with it. Maybe he would have swung through it, maybe not. But that's baseball. It's one pitch, one mistake, cost me the game.'
Ryan Ludwick added an RBI single to help the NL Central leaders move a season-best 10 games over .500 at 37-27.
Bailey (5-4) worked his way through several early jams and used almost every inch of the ballpark. Though the Citi Field fences were brought in before this season, David Wright hit two of four Mets drives that were caught within steps of the wall.
``I think since the fences have come in, it's more fair. It's not like a place that you say is a graveyard, it's not a bandbox, either,' Bailey said. ``But when you hit `em like Jay did, it doesn't really matter.'
One night after Joey Votto and Wright were hit by pitches, this time it was Bruce and Mets cleanup batter Lucas Duda. But again no trouble ensued, and both teams said there were no hard feelings.
Bailey was hit hard by the Mets twice last year in his only previous outings against them. This time he allowed six hits and one walk while striking out three to improve to 4-1 in his last six starts.
``Early on I was a little off and once I kind of got loose then everything started flowing pretty good,' Bailey said.
Aroldis Chapman tossed a hitless ninth for his eighth save.
Zack Cozart opened the game with a single and Wilson Valdez followed with a bunt single. Niese struck out Votto looking and was one strike from escaping unscathed when he dropped down almost sidearm for an 0-2 breaking ball that he wanted down and away against Bruce.
The pitch hung right over the middle of the plate, however, and Bruce hammered it deep into the right-field stands for his team-leading 15th homer.
``He made a mistake with it. I didn't miss it,' Bruce said. ``Other than that, he did really well.'
It was Bruce's second homer in two nights at Citi Field. The first one was an inside-the-park shot Friday that left Mets outfielder Jason Bay with his second concussion in two calendar years after he crashed into the wall trying to make a difficult catch.
The oft-injured Bay was placed on baseball's seven-day disabled list for concussions Saturday, and manager Terry Collins said he expects the left fielder to be sidelined longer.
Bay had just recently returned to the lineup after missing six weeks with a broken rib.
Consecutive doubles by Daniel Murphy and Wright put the Mets on the board in the bottom of the first, but Bailey limited the damage. New York put runners at the corners with nobody out the next inning and failed to score.
Bailey also wiggled out of a jam with two on in the third when he retired Davis on a deep fly and struck out Scott Hairston.
That began a string of eight straight outs for the right-hander before the Mets put their first two batters on in the sixth. Once again, Bailey held firm and retired three in a row to preserve a three-run cushion.
New York finished 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and failed to hit a home run for the first time in nine games at Citi Field.
``We're sitting in our position today because we hit with two outs, and today we didn't,' Collins said. ``We had plenty of opportunities to get back in the game.'
Bruce was hit by a pitch to start the fourth and scored on Ludwick's single.
NOTES: Cincinnati goes for a three-game sweep Sunday with ace Johnny Cueto (7-3, 2.46 ERA) on the mound against RHP Chris Young (1-0, 3.38). ... To celebrate the no-hitter thrown by No. 57 Johan Santana on June 1, the Mets are offering $5.70 tickets for Monday night's game against Baltimore. Santana is scheduled to start Tuesday night, when the first 25,000 fans in attendance will receive a T-shirt featuring a picture of him with his arm raised moments after he pitched the first no-hitter in franchise history.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved