Workhorse falters, but Mets win by nose
Barajas homer brings sweet victory after Fernando-mania finally hits sour note
Nieve, in fact, appeared in his 17th game of the season -- the most in the majors -- Tuesday night. And the right-hander, who has emerged as the most-trusted eighth-inning option, finally suffered a blemish.
Nieve served up consecutive solo homers to Joey Votto and Scott Rolen on eighth-inning fastballs, snapping a personal scoreless streak at 10 2/3 innings, as the Cincinnati Reds rallied to tie the Mets.
In the end, though, the Mets could exhale.
Rod Barajas belted his fourth homer in four starts, and his 99th career long ball -- a two-out, solo shot on a first-pitch fastball from former Texas Rangers teammate Francisco Cordero in the ninth inning. And after Francisco Rodriguez converted his fourth save, the Mets had held on for a 5-4 win at Great American Ball Park in which John Maine offered his second straight credible performance and David Wright continued to rediscover his power.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Al BehrmanFrancisco Rodriguez and the Mets snare victory in the ninth.
The Mets snapped a three-game losing streak.
"It was huge for us," Manuel said. "You don't want to be a team that diminishes your winning streak by having a bad streak. You want to be a team that can right the ship, get a win. And once you run off eight or so straight, you want to play .500 for a while until you run off another. You don't want to go to the negative side of that.
"In that sense, and on this road trip, that was a really big win for us."
Said Barajas: "I was pretty sure it was going to be a fastball or a slider -- one of the two pitches. I just took a guess. There are times where I've faced him before where he starts me off first-pitch slider, then he goes with the fastball. I figured it was one of the two, and I'm a better fastball hitter than I am a slider hitter. I just sat on the fastball."
Oliver Perez limited the Reds to two runs in six innings Monday. Maine did the identical thing Tuesday. And now the Mets are in position to salvage a split of their six-game road trip to Philadelphia and Cincinnati if Jon Niese can top Johnny Cueto in the series finale.
Maine allowed a solo homer to Brandon Phillips in the first inning, but that was the lone earned run he gave up. The other score came in the second inning, when Jay Bruce scored from first base on a two-out single to right field by No. 8 hitter Ryan Hanigan. Jeff Francoeur bounced a throw to third base past Wright and Maine, who was a shade late backing up, and the ball made its way into the stands.
It marked the second straight encouraging outing for Maine since he dealt with the spasms and pain in his left, non-pitching elbow. Last Wednesday, as the Mets capped a 9-1 homestand, Maine limited the Los Angeles Dodgers to three runs (two earned) in six innings.
Maine's fastball hardly sizzled, but he did dial it up to 91 mph to strike out Bruce and end the third inning with two Reds on base.
"It looks harder. It definitely does," Barajas said. "I look up during the game also just to see where my pitcher is at. It doesn't look like 89, 90 mph. It looks like it's got 3-4 mph more. He hides it well. It's something that I don't know if he did that in the past, but it's definitely making it a little more difficult for these hitters to see it out of his hands."
Said Maine: "I guess 90 mph feels as good as it can. I'd like to be throwing harder. It's just not happening right now. But, like I've said, the more I throw, the better it will be."
Meanwhile, the Mets had a rare solid showing against Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo -- whose five starts of seven-plus innings while allowing two or fewer runs against the Mets is more than any opposing pitcher since 2006.
The Mets opened the game with singles by Angel Pagan, Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes against Arroyo, with Reyes' hit giving the Mets an early 1-0 lead. Wright ultimately ended that threat with a 5-4-3 double play, but the third baseman contributed his next at-bat.
Wright's fourth-inning homer against Arroyo was estimated at 455 feet and evened the score at 2. The shot was Wright's sixth this season, a total he didn't reach until July 25, 2009. Jason Bay contributed a sacrifice fly and Francoeur had a run-scoring infield single in a two-run sixth.
"It's good to win a close game," Wright said. "That's something that we haven't been doing a lot of this year."
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