CINCINNATI (AP) — Matt Harvey had very little run support in his first four major league starts, so he took care of business at the plate as well as on the mound.
Harvey drove in one more run than he allowed in the longest outing of his short major league career, and the New York Mets snapped the Cincinnati Reds’ five-game winning streak with an 8-4 victory on Thursday night.
Harvey (2-3), who had lost three straight starts after winning in his major league debut, allowed one run and four hits in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter. Harvey also doubled in two runs in New York’s three-run fourth inning.
“I take pride in not being an easy out,” said Harvey, who had two hits in his debut.
Harvey’s command was much better against the Reds than in his previous start, and he showed the Mets what he can do when he is on his game.
“I wanted to pound the strike zone, and I did that,” Harvey said. “I had five walks in my last start and I didn’t want to do that this time.”
“When he has command like that, he’s going to be tough to hit,” manager Terry Collins said.
Ike Davis and Jason Bay hit solo home runs for the Mets, who capitalized on three errors and avoided a three-game sweep. New York hasn’t been swept in Cincinnati since 2005.
Harvey made that possible with his fine outing.
“When he has command like that, he’s going to be tough to hit,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Collins put Scott Hairston and Bay into the lineup that has struggled to score, and the moves paid off. The Mets totaled only six runs in Harvey’s first four starts combined.
Davis, who is scheduled to get a rest in the upcoming series against Washington, hit his first home run since July 28. Bay has struggled to hit, and now is adapting to being a reserve after being an All-Star and a starter most of his career.
“I’m adjusting to a new role now and it’s given me time to work on some things,” said Bay, who came in with a .150 batting average. “It felt good. I feel like this change has been on me for a while. It is up to me, but it doesn’t go into my at-bat to at-bat preparation.”
Collins plans to use Bay against left-handers, but put him in the lineup against the right-handed Homer Bailey to help spark Bay and the sputtering offense.
“I was happy to see that from Bay,” Collins said. “He’s a good player. Everybody’s pulling for him. If we can get him jump started, he can help.”
The Reds, who entered with a season-high, seven-game lead in the NL Central, had it cut to six over Pittsburgh.
Jon Rauch came on in relief of struggling Mets closer Frank Francisco and struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Valdez to end the game for his third save. Francisco allowed three runs and four hits, and got only two outs in his second straight rough outing.
“Francisco has struggled with locating his fastball since he came back from the oblique injury. We just need to get him some work,” Collins said.
The Mets took the lead in the fourth inning, scoring three times after managing a total of one run in their opening two losses to the Reds in the series.
Davis snapped the scoreless tie with his team-leading 21st homer. The leadoff shot, which traveled 421 feet into the right-center field seats, was hit off Bailey.
Two outs later, Bay hit a grounder up the middle that second baseman Brandon Phillips backhanded and threw over Todd Frazier’s head at first base for an infield hit and a throwing error. Kelly Shoppach, making his first appearance with the Mets, was intentionally walked to get to Harvey. The big right-hander then hit a two-run double to deep left-center field that produced his first career RBIs.
“It’s a tough adjustment to walk a guy and then try to throw one down and away,” Bailey said. “I left it over the middle. I might as well have put it on a tee for him.”
The error was Phillips’ first in a career-high 84 games, dating to May 6 at Pittsburgh.
Bay increased New York’s lead to 4-0 with his sixth homer of the year and first since July 18 at Washington, with one out in the sixth inning. Shoppach reached on Scott Rolen’s error, and after Harvey’s sacrifice, Ruben Tejada doubled off the left field wall and scored on Mike Baxter’s single.
Bailey (10-8) allowed eight hits and six runs, four earned, with three walks, a wild pitch and six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.
The Reds broke up Harvey’s shutout with doubles by Phillips and Jay Bruce in the seventh.
Davis added an RBI double in the ninth, and the Mets tacked on another run on Zack Cozart’s error.
“Over a 162-game season, you’re going to have games like this, but the way we’ve been playing lately, it’s odd,” Cozart said.
Ryan Ludwick led off the ninth with his 23rd homer of the season on the first pitch from Francisco. It extended Ludwick’s hitting streak to a season-high eight games. Miguel Cairo drove in another run with a single, and Cozart knocked in one with a double.
Harvey struck out eight, giving him 34 in his first five starts — the second-highest total, behind Dwight Gooden in Mets history. Gooden struck out 36 in his first five starts.
Notes: Mets 3B David Wright needs one home run to become the third player to hit 200 with New York. Wright hasn’t homered since July 27 at Arizona. … The Mets’ road trip continues with three at Washington. LHP Johan Santana is scheduled to make his second start since coming off on Friday. … The Reds will open a four-game, three-day home series against the Chicago Cubs, including a split doubleheader on Saturday to make up a rain postponement on May 1. RHP Johnny Cueto said he expects to start the first game of the doubleheader.
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