The opener between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets at Great American Ball Park was scoreless until the game’s final pitch.
The Reds could again have some trouble offensively going up against R.A. Dickey, who seems to have returned to form following a rough patch.
The NL Central leaders hope to carry some momentum from a thrilling win into Wednesday night and prevent Dickey from becoming the majors’ first 16-game winner.
Cincinnati and New York had left a total of 24 men on base and were a combined 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position Tuesday until Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift the Reds to a 3-0 win. It was the fourth win in a row for Cincinnati (70-46), which moved a season-high six games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh and improved to 26-8 since July 6.
“I don’t think it’s a ride,” Bruce said of the team’s surge, “I think this is how we’re going to play. This team is great, and we’ve got a lot of good things coming.”
Before looking too far ahead, though, the Reds will first try to keep Dickey (15-3, 2.72 ERA) from becoming the Mets’ first 16-game winner since Johan Santana finished 16-7 in 2008.
After being one of baseball’s biggest stories during a sensational first three months, Dickey began to level off at the season’s midpoint. He had a 6.49 ERA with 39 hits and 23 strikeouts in 26 1-3 innings over a five-game stretch from July 5-24, but in three starts since, he has a 1.17 ERA with 13 hits and 27 strikeouts over 23 innings. The knuckleballer put together one of his best outings in weeks against Miami on Thursday, tossing a five-hitter while striking out 10 in a 6-1 victory.
“He’s got the feel for it back, again,” manager Terry Collins said. “All I can tell you is I hope the next eight starts are like this one.”
Dickey wasn’t at his best in his lone start of the season against the Reds on May 17, allowing four runs and five hits while striking out eight in six innings as the Mets (55-61) rallied for a 9-4 victory. Bruce, who has homered in consecutive games and has team-high 23, is 1 for 6 with a double lifetime against the right-hander.
Ryan Ludwick, batting .373 with six homers, seven doubles and 20 RBIs in his last 16 games, is 3 for 8 with a home run against Dickey.
While the Reds could have another tough night pushing across runs, New York, loser of six of eight, could fare better against Mike Leake (4-7, 4.51).
Cincinnati has the majors’ best home record at 37-20, but Leake hasn’t had much to do with that success. He has an NL-worst 6.03 home ERA – compared to 3.13 on the road – and is 1-4 in 12 games at Great American Ball Park. He’s made eight starts since his only win in Cincinnati, and has a 10.38 ERA in his last three there.
The righty has pitched very well in his two career home starts against the Mets, though, posting a 2.19 ERA. At Citi Field on May 16, he gave up three runs – one earned – in six innings of the Reds’ 6-3 comeback win. Leake has limited David Wright to one hit in seven career at-bats.
Wright was 0 for 3 Tuesday after batting .419 during a 10-game hitting streak in Cincinnati.