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Recap: Mets flail, Bruce wails

Jay Bruce's solo homer was the difference in the Mets' 4-3 loss against Cincinnati. Their incessant strikeouts didn't help a whole lot, either.

"Oh man, I'm blurry in the foreground and the batter's in focus in the background. That's never good."
"Oh man, I'm blurry in the foreground and the batter's in focus in the background. That's never good."
Andy Marlin

Hush. If you are quiet enough, you can hear, even at this late hour, the gentle rush of a Mets batter striking out.

Shaun Marcum took the hill tonight for the Mets and started off swimmingly by walking Shin-Soo Choo. One out later, Joey Votto banged one right off of the first base bag. The ball ricocheted into right field and Marlon Byrd appeared to throw out Votto by a mile as he tried to stretch his hit into a double. However, Ike Davis was called for interference because he stood right in front of first base as Votto tried to round the bag.

This mental cramp set the stage for a Brandon Phillips bloop single into shallow right to score both runners, followed by a long double in the right-center gap by Jay Bruce to score Phillips. Marcum did seem to get a grip on things after his disastrous first, however, retiring the Reds in order in the second and third while tallying a few strikeouts, including an impressive K of Votto in the latter frame.

Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto made his first start in five weeks, and it looked every bit of that as he walked four batters in the first three innings. Per usual, it took a while for the Mets to take advantage of him, and the advantage take would be brief.

The Mets managed to load the bases in the bottom of the first against Kung Fu Cueto, thanks to a one-out walk by Rick Ankiel (yes, that Rick Ankiel), a single by Lucas Duda, and a two-out walk from Byrd. That brought Ike to the plate with a chance at redemption, but though he hit the ball hard up the middle, Phillips smothered it and got back on his feet in plenty of time to throw out the slow-footed runner. Horseshoes and hand grenades, as they say. In the second, John Buck worked a leadoff walk, but the next three batters could not move him off first.

The Mets finally made Cueto pay in the third. Ankiel got things started with a single, and Wright received a free pass, already Cueto's fourth of the night. One out later, Byrd turned on the first pitch he saw and deposited it in the left field seats for a three-run homer.

With things evened up, Marcum cruised in the fourth, notching two more Ks. But the fifth started poorly when Cueto batted for himself and reached Marcum for a single despite his rep as one of the worst hitting pitchers since the days of Al Leiter. Choo then hit ball in the hole between first and second, and Daniel Murphy attempted to get the force on the lead runner, to no avail. That put two on and no out for the heart of the Reds' order, but somehow Marcum got Cesar Izturis to pop out, Votto to ground out to first, and Phillips to fly to right to escape danger.

Marcum was not so fortunate in the sixth, as Bruce jumped on the first pitch of the inning and sent it into the Chase Utley Memorial Corner in right field, putting the Reds back on top. Cueto, meanwhile, pushed himself after Byrd's homer and barreled through the Mets' bats, setting them down in order in the fourth and fifth. Reliever Jay Ondrusek picked up where he left off by pitching a 1-2-3 sixth.

LaTroy Hawkins took Marcum's place in the seventh, and he Hawkinsed it up by loading the bases on a walk, an intentional walk of Votto, and hitting Phillips with a pitch. (The Mets argued with ball only hit the knob of Phillips' bat, but their protests fell on deaf ears.) That brought up Bruce with a chance to do some serious damage, but somehow Hawkins struck out Bruce on a slider in the dirt to end the threat. On his way off the mound, Hawkins barked at home plate umpire Tom Hallion for his erratic strike zone and was thrown out of the game. Terry Collins rushed to Hawkins' defense and also got the boot.

Brandon Lyon replaced the ejected Hawkins in the top of the eighth, and allowed a two-out single but nothing else. Greg Burke had the mound for the ninth, and he too negotiated around a two-out hit, thanks in large part to a fine play by Murphy on a ball up the middle.

However, these relief efforts were not equaled by the lineup. After Bruce's go-head dinger, J.J. Hoover took the hill in the bottom of the sixth and gave up a one-out single to pinch hitter Justin Turner. Lefty Sean Marshall came on to face Murphy, and Turner advanced to second when Marshall bounced a pitch in the dirt to put the tying run in scoring position. Murphy struck out, however, and Ankiel ground out to second, stranding Turner. Ankiel had been ahead in the count, but swung 3-0, because Ankiel gonna Ankiel.

Jonathan Broxton, looking in fine shape in the bottom of the eighth (block shape, per usual), permitted Duda to flare a one-out hit into shallow left, but retired the next two with no further trouble, including pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin,

Cincinnati's closer Aroldis Chapman was fresh off blowing his last two saves in crushing fashion. But Mets batters are good for what ails a pitcher, and Chapman blew everything past the hitters he faced in the ninth. His strikeout of Justin Turner to end the game was the 14th Mets K of the evening. They are probably still swinging and missing right now, in the clubhouse, in their kitchens, lying in bed. Forever there will be a Mets batter swinging, as eternal as tomorrow.

SB Nation Coverage

* Boxscore
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* Reds Reporter Gamethread

Win Probability Added

(What's this?)

Big winners: Marlon Byrd, +18.8%, Justin Turner, +5.2%
Big losers: Shaun Marcum, -21.5%, Daniel Murphy, -13.5%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Marlon Byrd three-run homer, bottom fourth, +27.5%
Teh sux0rest play: Jay Bruce home run, top sixth, -17.7%
Total pitcher WPA: -9.1%
Total batter WPA: -40.9%
GWRBI!: Jay Bruce solo shot, top sixth