CINCINNATI - Reds outfielder Jay Bruce figured it was only a matter of time.
Cincinnati squandered several scoring opportunities through the first eight innings on Tuesday, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and leaving 14 on base. Bruce reversed that trend with one mighty swing in the bottom of the ninth.
Bruce's three-run, walk-off home run off Josh Edgin snapped a scoreless tie and lifted the Reds to a dramatic 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the opening game of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
"We just couldn't get that hit to bust it open," said Bruce, his face still splattered with shaving cream from the postgame celebration. "If you keep getting guys on base, something's going to happen. Fortunately it did."
With the victory, the Reds improved to 20-8 since injured first baseman Joey Votto left the lineup on July 16. Votto was placed on the disabled list a day later and has yet to return.
With Pittsburgh losing 11-0 to the Dodgers, Cincinnati increased its lead in the National League Central Division to a season-high six games.
"You keep putting (runners) out there, sooner or later something is going to happen," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "That was a big win for us. A team victory."
Tuesday's loss marked yet another frustrating night for the Mets offense, which went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. The defeat ended New York's four-game winning streak at Great American Ball Park, and the Mets dropped to 9-21 since the All-Star break.
"It's tough not getting the big hit," said Mets catcher Josh Thole. "Not sure if we should try to do more, do less. I don't know. Just need to keep having good at-bats."
With the game scoreless entering the bottom of the ninth, Manny Acosta walked Brandon Phillips, and Ryan Ludwick singled. Edgin replaced Acosta, and Bruce launched Edgin's 1-2 pitch into the left-center-field seats for his fourth career walk-off homer and 23rd HR this season.
Both starters pitched well on Tuesday. The Reds' Mat Latos allowed just five hits over seven scoreless innings with two walks and four strikeouts. Mets starter Chris Young allowed eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, working out of jams in the second, third and fourth innings.
"You have to keep your focus in this ballpark, and he did," said Thole.
Despite being 1-4 with a 5.59 ERA since the All-Star break, Young has pitched five or more innings and allowed two earned runs or less in four of seven starts.
The Reds' defense provided a major boost on Tuesday.
New York had the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth, but Phillips made a leaping grab of Young's line drive to keep the game scoreless.
David Wright made a bid for his 17th home run in the fifth, but Bruce reached to make the catch a step in front of the right field wall. First baseman Todd Frazier's diving stop of Ike Davis' hard grounder ended the inning.
"We've been doing that all year," said Bruce. "Pitching and defense will determine how far we go."
NOTES: On Tuesday the Mets acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later, after placing a waiver claim on the eight-year veteran. Shoppach, 32, batted .250 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 48 games this season for Boston ... Entering the three-game series in Cincinnati, Wright had a .352 road batting average, third-best in the Major Leagues ... Reds right-hander Nick Masset is expected to make his sixth rehab appearance for Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday at Charlotte. Masset began the season on the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder.