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Recapping the Reds series: Signs of concern, improvement

The last three games were all about Mets’ starting pitchers, who showed signs of fatigue, upturn and consistency in losing two out of three to the Reds.

Game 1: Denied an All-Star spot, Mike Pelfrey (10-3) struggled in the opener, a 6-8 loss and his second straight poor outing. He was charged with seven runs and nine hits in 42/3 innings. In his previous start, he gave up 12 hits and four runs in 42/3 innings in a no-decision against the Marlins. With so much weight on his shoulders and 109 innings behind him, the All-Star break could not come at a better time.

Game 2: While Big Pelf skidded, Johan Santana (6-5) showed guts and guile in a three-hit shutout Tuesday night, the Mets winning 3-0. Watching Jerry Manuel walk to the mound in the 9th inning it looked liked Santana’s night was over. But Santana stared Manuel in the eyes and told him he’s finishing the game.

"I wanted to hear him tell me he wanted to finish it," the manager said, adding he didn't think it would have been fair to lift him after Bay's error on Jay Bruce's easy fly. Bay, who had gone 263 games without an error, said he lost it in the lights.

In addition to his show of moxie, Santana also hit a home run in the game, the first he said, since he was 14 years old.

Game 3: Jonathan Niese (6-3) may have lost the series finale yesterday 3-1, but he pitched well, giving up three runs and striking out eight for the second consecutive game. At 23 years old, Niese is emerging as a solid member of the rotation. Including last night, Niese has gone seven or more innings in five of his last seven starts. The Mets have been lucky to get 13 combined wins out of R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, but who knows how long the magic will last. Niese, however, is no act. He’s legit.

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