NEW YORK -- Jon Niese had appeared to right himself quickly in the first inning Saturday night, retiring two of the Cincinnati Reds' toughest hitters after allowing a pair of leadoff singles.
The New York Mets starter got ahead of Jay Bruce 0-2, then opted for a curveball.
Suddenly, Niese was no longer righting himself or getting ahead, as Bruce smacked the hanging curve out to right for a three-run homer to fuel the Reds' second straight win over the Mets, 4-1.
It was the second big early homer in as many nights for Bruce, and it provided plenty of support for Homer Bailey (5-4), who pitched eight innings of one-run ball. Aroldis Chapman earned his eighth save of the season with a scoreless ninth as the Reds won their fifth straight.
"I don't regret throwing the pitch. I regret hanging it on the inside part of the plate," said Niese, who allowed just one more run and three more hits in the rest of his seven innings. "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."
Bruce -- who hit the inside-the-park homer in the second inning of Friday night's game that led to Mets left fielder Jason Bay's injury and placement on the seven-day disabled list for concussions -- smacked his 15th homer of the season Saturday.
"I'll take 'em both, that's for sure," Bruce said. "But it's definitely nicer to trot around."
While Niese (4-3) pitched well the rest of the way, Bailey stymied the Mets even more, scattering six hits. The Mets also stranded eight base runners, despite hitting several balls hard.
"We're sitting in our position today because we hit with two outs and today we didn't," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We had plenty of opportunities to get back in the game. Second inning we had a runner on third, less than two outs. Couldn't get him in. In a close game, that's gonna come back and haunt ya."
The teams also traded hit batsmen for the second straight night. Bruce was hit by a pitch from Niese in the fourth, in the at-bat after his homer. Bailey hit the Mets' Lucas Duda to lead off the sixth. No warnings were issued and the Mets wasted another scoring opportunity after Ike Davis singled Duda to second with no one out. Bailey then got Scott Hairston on a fly to right, Josh Thole on a fielder's choice and Omar Quintanilla on a pop-up.
But both sides said they saw no intent from either pitcher and dismissed any type of issue.
The Mets countered in the bottom of the first, with back-to-back doubles from Daniel Murphy and David Wright to make it 3-1. But, as he would throughout the early innings, Bailey pitched out of trouble. With Wright on second and one out, Bailey retired Duda and Davis to end the inning.
"He dialed it up some. His fastball was 90-91, and then with runners on base, it was 93-94," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's what the good ones do. ... He was just outstanding tonight, and we scored just enough runs to win."
The Mets put runners on first and third with no one out in the second, when Hairston doubled and Thole singled. But Bailey got No. 8 hitter Quintanilla on a pop-up to second, Niese hit into a fielder's choice on a bunt attempt and Kirk Nieuwenhuis flied out to left.
The Reds extended their lead to 4-1 in the fourth on Ryan Ludwick's RBI single, which drove in Bruce, who had reached on the hit-by-pitch.