Visiting teams continue to turn Citi Field's geographical location into a description: Flushing New York. Last night, the Cincinnati Reds washed the Mets further down the National League East drain, 4-0, the Mets' 10th loss in their last 12 home games and 14th in 23 games this season.
Worse, from the Mets' standpoint, was that the Mets (17-26) were so complicit in their latest failure.
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All the Cincinnati runs that mattered, three scored in the first inning, were unearned, the result of David Wright's two-out fielding error. Joey Votto had walked, Brandon Phillips singled and Jay Bruce walked to load the bases before Todd Frazier's sharp grounder shot through Wright's legs, allowing two runs to score.
Mets starter Jonathan Niese (3-5) then gave up a single to Donald Lutz and a bases-loaded walk to Devin Mesoraco before finally ending the inning by retiring winning pitcher Mike Leake (4-2) on a bunt attempt.
But the real leak, letting yet more air out of the Mets' balloon, was Wright's wrong, his fourth error since his franchise-best 78-game errorless streak at third base ended a month ago. "You don't ever see that," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Wright's flub. "But everybody's human, and things happen."
Wright said he got caught by a "tricky, in-between hop. I wish I could've made that one. When things aren't going so great, one play like that can cost you the game, and it did."
It was the kind of mistake they served to magnify the multiple Mets problems. After the first inning, when Niese hurt his own cause with three walks, "I came in here [to the clubhouse] and let off some steam," Niese said. "Just told myself, 'You've got to battle back and keep the team in the game.' It's not easy, but it's something you've got to do, and I did keep the team in the game."
He scattered three Cincinnati hits through the next five innings and struck out seven before being lifted for LaTroy Hawkins. But the Mets' offense remained somnolent and Cincinnati tacked on a final run when Mesoraco walloped reliever Colin McHugh's first pitch over the leftfield wall to start the ninth inning.
The Mets were able to muster only three hits and two walks against Leake in his seven strong innings, and remained hitless against relievers Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek through the eighth and ninth. A Lucas Duda walk and two-out John Buck double in the fourth inning came to nothing when the most forlorn of Mets' batters, Ike Davis, grounded out to first to strand both men.
Each time Davis drags his flagging average (down to .149) to the plate, the public address system cranks up the Rolling Stones plea -- "Start me up/If you start me up/I'll never stop." The music fades before the too-appropriate line, "You make a grown man cry," can be heard.
In the sixth, Duda doubled with two out for the slightest hint of a rally, but Rick Ankiel flied out to right.
"It's asking a lot of your starting pitchers," Wright said, "to put up zero after zero because the offense is not doing what we're capable of."