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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Series with Reds lacks excitement of NL East games, but Mets still need to get up for it

All games count and the Mets to need be up for matchups against weak rivals from other divisions. 

Pete Alonso #20 of the Mets looks on

Pete Alonso #20 of the Mets looks on from the dugout against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on Monday, Apr. 29, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

They talk about the dog days of August. But there needs to be a term invented for the cold nights in late April when the Mets are playing in front of about 10,000 people against a non-division, non-rivalry opponent.

The Cincinnati Reds came to Citi Field for the first of a four-game series on Monday night. It’s a series circled on no one’s calendar, but the season is 162 games long and they all count exactly the same in the standings.

So the Mets, who have lofty aspirations, have to get up for these bloodless affairs just as if they are facing their NL East rivals.

Instead, the Mets fell behind early, came back to tie and then got into a late-inning mano-a-mano battle with the Reds — and wilted. Jesse Winker broke a ninth-inning tie with a home run off Edwin Diaz and the Mets lost, 5-4.

The Mets had their chances before a generously announced crowd of 20,766. Tied at 4 since the fourth, the Mets didn’t score again. Brandon Nimmo bounced out to first with two runners on to end the sixth. Pete Alonso struck out with two runners on to end the eighth after Jeff McNeil was walked intentionally to get to him.

“It’s frustrating because we definitely had a chance to beat them,” Alonso said. “But they were in the ballgame the entire game. Can’t let a team hang around like that because here in the big leagues, no one’s bad. Every team is not to be taken lightly and every game matters.”

They all will at the end. The East looks as if it’s going to be a dogfight all year, with the Mets, Phillies, Nationals and Braves all seemingly capable of taking the top spot and Derek Jeter’s Marlins seemingly capable of losing 110 games.

Three games separated the top four in the division going into Monday. The Mets, who are in a stretch of 13 games against non-division foes, fell to 14-14. Their next division game is May 10 vs. Miami.

“I think we knew it was going to be kind of a battle royale all season,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Our division is a very good division. We have very good teams and we figured it was going to be tough. I think this is great for baseball. I think it’s great for our team to play in one of the best divisions. You’ve got to go out there and play the game the right way every night. You can’t take a day off and that will be good for us when it comes time for us to do what we’ve set out to do this year, and that’s to win a championship.”

As we said — lofty.

So it wasn’t a good look for the Mets when Zack Wheeler gave up a four-spot in the second. Cincinnati (12-16) came in with an offense that was last in baseball in batting average (.209) and hits (181) and 26th in runs (101) and OPS (.658). And that’s despite playing its home games in one of the best hitting parks in the circuit.

Trailing 4-0, the Mets rallied with two runs in the second and two more in the fourth. Reds starter Tanner Roark practically begged the Mets to get even when he walked three in the fourth, including McNeil with the bases loaded to make it 4-3.

Reds manager David Bell called in lefthander Wandy Peralta, who walked Nimmo on four pitches to tie the score at 4. Michael Conforto ended the inning by grounding out, but the Mets had gotten even and were into the Reds’ bullpen early. It was important to finish the job.

The Mets didn’t. Maybe the dog days are already here.

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