The New York Mets looked to sweep the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Mets they took a tough 2-1 loss, falling to 2-4 on the season.
Jon Niese came off the disabled list to make his season debut. Before the start of the game Mets manager Terry Collins said the lefty ace was on a strict pitch count of 95 pitches. Collins explained that he did not want to push Niese too much in his first start of the season and after coming off an injury. Niese pitched very well in his first start, going 5 2/3 allowing two runs, while striking out four. Alfredo Simón was equally phenomenal, in his first start in more than two years. Simón pitched seven innings allowing one run, while striking out six men.
Niese made his season debut after a difficult Spring Training where he was shutdown twice to have his shoulder checked out. Both times the MRI came back negative. In the first inning, Niese looked sharp retiring the Reds in order, getting the first two batters to ground out, and Reds star first baseman Joey Votto to strikeout looking. Simón matched Niese’s effort getting the Mets 1-2-3.
Niese got into a jam in the top of the second inning. After getting center fielder Ryan Ludwick to strike out swinging, Niese walked star right fielder Jay Bruce, and allowed a single to Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier putting runners at first and second with one out. Shortstop Zach Cosart then flew out to center for the second out of the inning, advancing Bruce to third. Niese then proceeded to get Brayan Peña to ground out to short for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson swung at the very first pitch and grounded out weakly to first base. First baseman Ike Davis, Saturday’s hero, then lined a double down the left field line. The next batter, center fielder Juan Lagares singled to left, bringing in Davis, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. Lagares was then caught stealing by Peña for the second out, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud grounded out to short to end the inning.
In the top of the third Niese retired the first two batters on groundouts. Reds star second baseman Brandon Phillips singled up the middle, but was thrown out trying to steal second, to end the inning. After Ruben Tejada struck out to start the inning, Niese walked and left fielder Eric Young Jr. lined a double in the gap between left and center putting runners at second and third with one out. The Mets failed to capitalize as Simón struck out second baseman Daniel Murphy and star third baseman David Wright to get out of the jam.
Both pitchers cruised for the next two innings, getting the hitters to retire in order in the fourth and fifth innings.
Niese was only at 60 pitches at the start of the sixth inning. He allowed back to back singles off the pitcher Simón and left fielder Chris Helsey to leadoff the inning. Phillips singled to center to load the bases for the Reds with no outs. Votto then hit a sacrifice fly to left field, brining in Simón, tying the game a one run apiece. Ludwick then blooped a single to left bringing Helsey, putting the Reds up 2-1. Bruce grounded out to first, advancing Phillips and Ludwick to second and third.
Niese, now at 90 pitches, was pulled by manager Terry Collins and brought in Gonzalez Germen to get the final out. Germen walked Todd Frazier to load the bases for the second time in the inning. But Germen got out of the jam, getting Cosart to ground out to end the inning.
The Mets failed to get any offense going in the bottom of the sixth. Eric Young Jr. accidentally hit a pitch with the knob of his bat for the first out, Murphy grounded out to first, Simón then plunked Wright, but Granderson struck out swinging to end the inning.
Germen also pitched the seventh inning, getting the Reds in order. The Mets looked to get something going in the bottom of the inning, down a run. The Reds put shifted the infield against Ike Davis. Davis beat the shift for an infield single. Juan Lagares flew out to center for the first out of the inning. The next batter Travis d’Arnaud was hitless in 14 at bats with six strikeouts. d’Arnaud crushed a pitch off Simón down the left field line that looked like it was going out, instead it died at the wall for the second out. Tejada weakly grounded to third for the final out of the inning.
Neither team did much offensively in the eighth inning and The Reds went quietly in the top of the ninth. The Mets looked to recreate Saturday afternoon’s magic, and looked poised to do so with the heart of their lineup due up to bat. Reliever Manny Para, who had come in to pitch the eighth inning, struck out Wright, grounded out Granderson, and struck out Davis to end the game.
The Mets travel to Atlanta to begin their series on Tuesday. Bartolo Colon gets the start for New York against Aaron Harrang for the Braves.
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