NEW YORK -- A three-run fifth inning sunk Mets starting pitcher Chris Young in a 3-1 loss on Father's Day, and for the first time since April 2001, the Reds left Flushing with a sweep.
The Mets scored 29 runs in their three-game sweep of the Rays earlier this week, but could only manage five against the Reds this weekend. New York manager Terry Collins said there's no secret to why his team struggled against Cincinnati.
"Well, we asked ourselves the same question this morning, 'What's the difference?'" Collins said. "We had opportunities. One of the things we've done, we've gotten big hits with two outs, and this series we didn't hit with two outs."
The Mets entered Sunday's game hitting .276 with runners in scoring position and two outs, the second-highest mark in the Major Leagues. Young pitched well enough to keep the Mets in the game, but for the second night in a row, New York couldn't muster the hit it needed at the right time, although Reds starter Johnny Cueto didn't give the Mets many opportunities.
The Reds' right-hander entered the day 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA in five career starts against New York. But Sunday, he continued his dominant stretch in June, throwing seven innings, striking out eight and walking one.
"We're sputtering a little bit offensively," third baseman David Wright said. "Our starting pitching hasn't been bad, but we just haven't been able to get that many runs. Obviously, it puts a ton of pressure on the pitching staff to put zeros up when offensively we're not clicking. I think that we're doing an OK job getting guys on base, but we haven't had that big hit that gets us going."
Cueto looked sharp in the first inning, striking out the first two batters of the game, but the Mets got to him in the second. After Lucas Duda struck out to lead off the inning, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole followed with successive singles to load the bases.
Andres Torres flew out to center field for the second out, but Young helped his own cause, working a 3-0 count and eventually drawing a bases-loaded walk to score the Mets' only run of the game. With the bases still juiced, Kirk Nieuwenhuis worked a nine-pitch at-bat, but Cueto got the Mets' left fielder to swing through a fastball to get out of the inning.
Young quickly worked himself into trouble in the third inning. He gave up a leadoff double to Cueto, then allowed Zack Cozart to reach first on a bunt single, moving the Reds' starter to third. With Cincinnati's big bats coming up, Young buckled down. He set the Reds' next three batters -- Wilson Valdez, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips -- down in order to escape the inning without any damage.
But with two outs in the fifth, the middle of the Reds' order scored three runs with a little help from Duda. After a double by Cozart, Valdez hit a single to bring the Reds' shortstop around to score. Young intentionally walked Votto, and with two men on, Phillips made the right-hander pay with a single, plating Valdez from second. Duda's throw to get Votto out at third wound up in the Reds' dugout, allowing the first baseman to score on the play.
"That at-bat, I told myself I was gonna go up there and try to get jammed or go the other way or something, because every time I tried to pull the ball, I kept popping up," Phillips said. "I was like, 'This dude is killing me,' and I was starting to get [annoyed]. So I said, 'Let me go at it and try to focus on hitting the ball the other way.' And I went out there and got a key hit. I'm glad I just came through for the team."
Outside of the fifth inning, Young had another strong start, his third since returning to the team from shoulder surgery. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- and nine hits over seven innings. The loss was Young's first since June 14, 2009. He had gone 10 straight starts without a defeat, compiling a 1.81 ERA over the stretch.
"You try to hold the team in the game and give the team a chance to win, but ultimately it wasn't enough to win today, as Cueto was better," Young said. "I wish we had won the game. I needed to make that RBI stand up, and I didn't do it."
The loss is the Mets' season-high fourth in a row at home. They've scored nine runs over their home losing streak, and have hit .178 with 27 strikeouts over the stretch.
"We didn't play so well the first three games of the homestand, but we've got two really, really good teams coming in here now [Orioles and Yankees], and we've got to figure it out, because it's going to be a long week if we continue to struggle offensively," Wright said. "We need to continue to have good at-bats, and somebody will break that ice and get that big hit, and it'll kind of flow from there."
Ethan Aofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.