New York Mets pitcher Jonathan Niese is taken out out...

New York Mets pitcher Jonathan Niese is taken out out the game in the 8th inning against the Reds. (July 7, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Mets manager Jerry Manuel was a bit curious to see the NL Central-leading Reds going into the three-game series that ended last night at Citi Field.

The Reds are one of baseball's surprise teams. The Mets got to see why, unfortunately for them, while losing two of three. Cincinnati took the rubber match with clutch pitching, clutch hitting and clutch defense in a 3-1 win.

Bronson Arroyo (9-4) allowed a run in eight innings and rookie Chris Heisey hit the go-ahead home run off Jonathon Niese (6-3) in the seventh inning.

Niese allowed three runs and six hits in 72/3 innings, walking one. He struck out eight, tying a career high set in his previous outing.

After a day off, the Mets will see another first-place club starting Fridaywhen the NL East-leading Braves visit for a three-game series before the All-Star break. Atlanta has a three-game edge over the Mets.

The Mets had a chance in the ninth against Reds closer Francisco Cordero. Ike Davis led off with a double before Jason Bay popped to first and heard some boos about it. Josh Thole (2-for-3) walked before Jesus Feliciano lined a bullet to center for the second out and Alex Cora skied to right to end it.

The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first when Angel Pagan launched his sixth home run into the Mets' bullpen in right-center.

The Reds tied it in the third when Brandon Phillips took Niese out to left for his 12th home run. That was the only Cincinnati hit until Heisey hit his fifth home run, a solo shot to left that gave the Reds a 2-1 lead.

It was also Heisey who, moments before his go-ahead home run, made the defensive play of the game with the score still tied at 1 in the sixth.

David Wright was on second with two outs when Bay sent a drive to right-center that appeared to have triple written all over it. Heisey ran it down and made the catch with a lunge to end the inning.

After Heisey homered, Drew Stubbs reached on a slow roller to third base - Wright tried to let it go foul, but it didn't - and Arroyo singled on a bunt that carried over Niese's head on a fly and landed in no-man's land.

Those two cheapies hurt, and so did Phillips' RBI ground-rule double off the rightfield line that made the score 3-1.

The Mets had two other solid opportunities against Arroyo, who gave up seven hits, walked no one and struck out three.

In the third, Niese smacked a ground-rule double to left with one out. But the pitcher committed a baserunning blunder when he took off for third on Jose Reyes' grounder to short. Even though Orlando Cabrera bobbled the ball, Niese was an easy out.

In the fifth, Thole and Feliciano singled to start the inning and moved up on Alex Cora's grounder to first. Niese struck out on a high fastball and Reyes grounded back to the mound, with Arroyo making the play despite slipping while catching the ball.