The Mets' Kodai Senga throws during the third inning against...

The Mets' Kodai Senga throws during the third inning against the Reds in Cincinnati on Thursday. Credit: AP/Aaron Doster

CINCINNATI — In big ways and small, the Mets are absolutely flummoxed. 

The micro: A parade of random Reds relievers stifled the Mets, 5-0, Thursday afternoon to send them to a fifth consecutive series loss. They have been shut out seven times in this six-week-old season; last year they totaled eight such games. 

The macro: The Mets are 2-7 since this two-week supposedly soft stretch of schedule began. And they have lost 13 of their past 17 games. 

They don’t really know why any of this is happening, either, aside from the obvious: They stink right now. 

“It’s pretty quiet in here. We’re a team that should be winning a lot of ballgames, just like last year,” Jeff McNeil said in a sullen postgame clubhouse. “It’s not very good right now. This isn’t who we are. It comes down to playing better. It’s just bad right now. We gotta turn it around and we gotta do it quick. 

“It’s never a lack of effort. We’re big-league players. We’re here to compete, we’re here to win. I don’t think anyone is performing like they want to.” 

As the Mets (18-20) head to Washington to begin a four-game series Friday, they are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Nationals — and 7 1/2 behind first-place Atlanta. 

 

“Other teams have just, bottom line, played better than us,” Francisco Lindor said. “They outhit us, outpitch us, outrun. They play better defense.” 

Manager Buck Showalter said: “It’s frustrating for the guys, but at the same time you got a chance to do something every day.” 

And Kodai Senga, through an interpreter: “Everybody just needs to do their job, fulfill their role. As a starter, I need to go deep into games and get the team on a good roll.” 

Senga did not do that this time, contributing perhaps his worst start yet: five innings, five runs. 

That he survived that long was something of a surprise given that he gave up four runs — all with two outs — during a 37-pitch mess of a first inning. 

Senga nearly escaped that jam before Cincinnati (16-21) had scored at all, but Jake Fraley blooped a single into shallow centerfield between Brandon Nimmo and Lindor for the first run. After Tyler Stephenson’s check-swing single through the right side of the infield, Nick Senzel rocketed a double to right-center for another. Kevin Newman followed by sneaking a single past a diving Lindor for an additional pair. 

As Senga faced the No. 9 hitter, Curt Casali, Tommy Hunter warmed up in the bullpen — with Showalter ready to pull Senga if Casali reached base. Senga struck him out looking, but by then the damage was done and the Mets never recovered. 

The only other run allowed by Senga came in the fifth, when Spencer Steer homered with two outs. 

“Kodai was a victim,” Showalter said of the weak contact during the Reds’ rally. “When you’re not scoring runs, all that gets multiplied. Pitchers feel like there’s not much margin for error. It’s a tough mindset to pitch in.” 

Senga (4.14 ERA) struck out seven and walked one. He had issued at least three free passes in all of his prior starts. 

“One thing I had in mind coming into this outing was pounding the strike zone, which I thought I did pretty well, but I happened to throw it where they could hit it,” he said. 

Cincinnati ran out a collection of pitchers that was less of a who’s-who and more of a wait, who? Derek Law (four outs), Ben Lively (nine), Lucas Sims (five) and Kevin Herget (nine) filled in after the Reds opted to give lefthander Nick Lodolo, their scheduled starter, a couple of extra days of rest. 

The Mets almost scored in the seventh inning when Lindor roped a two-out single to rightfield. But Francisco Alvarez, trying to come around from second, was thrown out at the plate by Henry Ramos. 

“It comes down to a little bit of an individual basis,” McNeil said. “Everyone’s gotta get a little bit better. Everyone’s not performing the way they should. Whatever that is, with yourself, you gotta find a way to get better.”

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