CINCINNATI — For at least a night, the Mets ran out of magic.
They lost to the Reds, 4-3, on Tuesday night in a game that was mostly normal, which was different from their recent usual.
The Reds’ Wade Miley held them to two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Pete Alonso homered, but Cincinnati countered with long balls from Jonathan India in the first, then Joey Votto and Aristides Aquino back-to-back in the third inning. The Mets (49-43) stranded the potential tying run on second base in the seventh and eighth innings and on first base in the ninth inning.
Amir Garrett, the sometimes closer in a bad Reds bullpen, walked Dominic Smith on four pitches, none close to the strike zone, to begin the last inning. But he struck out Brandon Nimmo and Alonso and got Jeff McNeil to pop out to end it.
"All of us felt," bench coach Dave Jauss said, "that we were going to go to the bottom of the ninth tonight."
Ten days before the July 30 trade deadline, the Mets’ desperate need for pitching somehow became yet more desperate.
Righthander Robert Stock left with an injured right hamstring prior to the bottom of the second inning. In the top of the second, he busted it down the first-base line on a groundout to second, stranding two runners in scoring position. The 31-year-old took the mound to start warming up but soon left with an athletic trainer.
"He got so excited that he was getting an at-bat with runners in scoring position," said Jauss, who was the fill-in manager as Luis Rojas finished his two-games suspension. "He said he hadn’t run that hard since he was 21 years old, the adrenaline."
That meant another long night for the Mets’ bullpen. In the past three games, their starting pitchers have combined for five innings. Relievers were required to toss 23.
Plucked off the waiver-wire scrap heap from the Cubs last month, Stock going down illustrates just how bizarrely deep the Mets’ injury woes are, particularly with their rotation situation.
Already, the Mets have nine starting pitchers/longer relievers who could start on the injured list: Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Carrasco, Jordan Yamamoto, Joey Lucchesi, Robert Gsellman, David Peterson, Sean Reid-Foley, Corey Oswalt and Jacob deGrom.
A glance at their upcoming rotation situation shows Marcus Stroman (Wednesday), Tylor Megill (Friday) and Taijuan Walker (Saturday) as the last men standing.
Then it gets rough again. They have three games in two days — including a doubleheader against Atlanta on Monday — and an uncertain number of starters. Anthony Banda, who pitched poorly in the minors before getting called up Monday, is an option.
So, too, is Carrasco, but he only lasted 1 2/3 innings (of a scheduled three) in a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. He hasn’t pitched all year due to a torn right hamstring.
All of which is to say, the Mets need help, the sooner the better. They are 14-18 since June 17.
Alonso said he looked forward to the first trade deadline under owner Steve Cohen.
"We’ll see what Uncle Steve decides to do," he said.
Despite losing Stock, the Mets actually had a chance. They got through the game with a combination of pitchers from a part of the depth chart that didn’t even exist until recently: Stephen Nogosek (three innings, two runs), Yennsy Diaz (one inning), Geoff Hartlieb (1 1/3 innings, one run), Aaron Loup (two outs) and Drew Smith (one inning).
"In a situation like that, you gotta give the team a chance to win," said Nogosek, who on his second day wit the team was the emergency long reliever. "I thought I did that. Nine times out of 10, we come back and win that ballgame."