Garrett returns to mound for Reds

NEW YORK — The Cincinnati Reds watched the New York Mets get a spark from one of their youngsters on Thursday night. The Reds hope to be the ones jump-started by a homegrown prospect Friday, when the two teams play the second game of a four-game series at Citi Field.

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio

Reds rookie left-hander Amir Garrett (3-6, 7.41 ERA) is scheduled to make his first major league start in two and a half months when he takes the mound against Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (5-4, 5.00).

The host Mets won the series opener Thursday, when rookie Brandon Nimmo made his second career start in the cleanup spot and produced his first two-homer game in the big leagues in a 7-2 win.

The enthusiasm displayed by Nimmo — who sprints to first base on walks and nearly caught up to teammate Asdrubal Cabrera on his second home run trot — will be welcomed down the stretch by the Mets (61-79), whose hopes of reaching the playoffs for the third straight season vanished thanks to widespread injuries and underperformance. Nimmo was one of five rookies to play for New York on Thursday night.

“I think bringing a positive energy every day kind of just can lift a team a little bit,” Nimmo said. “I just try and be positive and hopefully that positivity will kind of rub off on some of the other guys. For us, in our situation, the best thing we can do is be positive about the rest of the season (and) try and finish strong.”

Garrett will be looking to provide the same boost when he starts for the Reds (61-80) for the first time since June 20, when he took the loss after allowing six runs over 3 2/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Garrett struggled in his final six big league starts (0-4, 12.49 ERA) before being demoted to Triple-A Louisville on June 23, but Reds manager Bryan Price said Garrett has displayed better velocity in recent minor league starts.

“I noticed it in the last three starts,” Price told reporters. “He’s pitching a little bit more off of his fastball and not using such an expanded mix of pitches. We saw him with lesser velocity pitch very effectively, so I don’t think his success is based on his velocity. However, it never hurts to be able to manage a fastball that’s a tick higher.”

Lugo took the loss in his most recent start last Saturday, when he gave up four runs over five innings as the Mets fell to the Houston Astros, 4-1. He is 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA in his last five starts, a stretch in which he has fashioned a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 29/8 but has not completed six innings.

Garrett played two seasons of college basketball at St. John’s, located a few minutes away from Citi Field, before beginning his professional baseball career. But he has never faced the Mets. Lugo has never opposed the Reds.