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Reds shut down Mets

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Cincinnati Reds have scored in just four of their last 18 innings. But with the way their pitchers have shut down the scuffling New York Mets, that has been more than enough.

Mike Leake threw seven shutout innings and combined with two relievers on a three-hitter, and the Reds generated all the offense they'd need with three unearned runs in the first inning on Tuesday night in a 4-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 23,183 at Citi Field.

The Reds (28-18) also scored three runs in the first inning of their 4-3 win on Monday.

"That's what you want to do on the road," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You've got first at-bats. Guys are hollering all the time 'Jump 'em early.' If you can do that, it sort of breaks the spirit of the opposing pitcher, at least for a little while, because a lot of times they feel they're throwing great in the bullpen and what happened? So we jumped 'em."

Unlike Monday -- when the Mets (17-26) scored their only runs of the series thus far on a three-run homer by Marlon Byrd in the third inning -- the Reds never let the Mets back into the game.

Leake, who batted and made the final out in the top of the first before he threw a pitch, allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out four in a 99-pitch performance.

"It always helps a little bit," Leake said of taking the mound with a lead. "It helps you relax a little bit. It lets you attack hitters, instead of being timid."

Leake has thrown 13 2/3 shutout innings in his last two starts and has allowed just six earned runs in 26 1/3 innings in four May starts, a stretch in which he has lowered his ERA from 4.34 to a season-best 2.89.

"Leake threw a great ballgame," Baker said, "He had it all going on tonight. Last start, too, and the last start before that. He's throwing the ball well."

Four of the five base runners that Leake allowed on Tuesday got into scoring position, but the Mets were 0 for 4 with runners at second or third.

Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek finished for the Reds with a scoreless inning of relief apiece.

The two wins over the Mets have symbolized the Reds' pitching-reliant play in May. Cincinnati is 13-5 this month even though it has scored four runs or less nine times.

Reds starters are 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA on the first eight games of a nine-game road trip that concludes Wednesday afternoon.

"That's how you get on winning streaks -- one-and-a-half times around the rotation or two times around the rotation when everyone's throwing well," Baker said. "It starts with the pitching. We haven't exactly been knocking the cover off the ball, but we've held (opponents) to a few (runs)."

Todd Frazier had two hits for the Reds, but his biggest contribution with the bat came with two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, when his scorching one-hopper skipped under David Wright's legs as Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips raced home. Wright was charged with an error, his fourth of the season.

"You don't ever see that -- you don't ever see that," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "All it tells you is everybody's a human and things happen. I tell you, in my three years (as Mets manager), I don't think I've ever seen a ball go through his legs."

Cincinnati's Devin Mesoraco drew a bases-loaded walk to cap the first inning and added a solo homer leading off the ninth.

Lucas Duda reached base twice, via a walk and a double, for the Mets (17-26), who scored three runs or fewer on Tuesday for the 12th time in their last 15 games.

Jonathon Niese survived a marathon first inning to last six innings for the Mets but was still saddled with the loss. He allowed five hits and three walks while striking out seven.

Niese threw 48 of his 106 pitches in the first inning before settling down. Only one Cincinnati player got into scoring position against Niese in his final five innings.

Niese needed just seven pitches to retire the first two batters of the first inning but ended up allowing three walks and two singles and throwing 48 pitches before he finally struck out Leake to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.

"Jon Niese settled in and was fantastic those next five innings and really did a nice job saving the bullpen," Wright said. "I wish I could have made that (play in the firstz). When things aren't going so great, one play like that can cost you a game. And it did today."

NOTES: RHP Zack Wheeler, the Mets' top prospect, is scheduled to start for Class AAA Las Vegas on Wednesday. Wheeler missed his last start because of shoulder inflammation. ... Mets ace Matt Harvey is scheduled to start Wednesday's series finale against the Reds' Mat Latos. Entering Tuesday, the Mets were 4-5 in the games befpre a Harvey start and 0-9 in the games immediately after. ... Reds SS Zack Cowart returned to the lineup after missing two games due to illness. ... OF Shin-Soo Choo got a rare night off against Niese. Choo, who entered Tuesday leading the National League in plate appearances and runs, played in 44 of the Reds' first 45 games. ... Votto extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the seventh inning.
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