Mets' win streak snapped at five
Maine hit early as New York struggles for offensive support
CINCINNATI -- John Maine will have to wait until next season to continue trying to figure out the Cincinnati Reds.
The Mets right-hander, who got the loss in Cincinnati's only win over New York this season before Wednesday's finale of their three-game series at Great American Ball Park, again found the Reds too hard to handle. They scored two runs in the first inning and never looked back on their way to a 7-0 win that snapped the Mets' season-high winning streak at five games.
The loss -- New York's fourth of the season by shutout and first since losing 4-0 at Houston on July 6 -- was a disappointing end to a road trip that started as a potential disaster before the Mets were able to right themselves. But on Wednesday, they never got a runner past second base while losing the trip's finale to finish 5-5 after starting off by being swept in a four-game series at Philadelphia.
"[It was a] long road trip," manager Willie Randolph said of the Mets' second-longest stint of the season away from home, one game short of an 11-game epic in late June and early July, on which they went 5-6. "It would've been nice to finish with a sweep, but I'm proud of the boys for the way they finished up. It would've been easy to give in, the way things started, but they showed a lot of heart and character.
"We'll take a definite positive from that. This is a tough road trip at this time of year, and it's not easy to finish up the way we did. They did a nice job of regrouping. We could've won two of the four in Philly. We're in battle mode right now. We're just trying to win games."
"The last two series, we've played well," Maine said. "If we come out of Philly with a split, the trip would've been that much better, but it didn't happen. Now we come back to our place, and we've got a shot."
After a day off Thursday, the Mets open a nine-game homestand Friday with the first game of a three-game series against Houston, followed by three-game series against Atlanta and Philadelphia, their closest pursuers in the National League East Division.
New York had a chance to sweep the Reds in a three-game series in Cincinnati for the first time since July 4-6, 2003. The Mets went 5-2 against the Reds this season.
Cincinnati right-hander Tom Shearn was as difficult for Mets hitters to figure out as Maine was easy for the Reds. The 30-year-old Shearn, in his third Major League start, kept New York hitless until Luis Castillo led off the fourth inning with a bunt single. Shearn turned in six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
Shearn got support from Brandon Phillips, whose two-run homer in the first was his second home run in consecutive at-bats after he homered in the ninth Tuesday night, and rookie Joey Votto, whose solo shot off the batter's eye in center field with two outs in the second inning was his first Major League hit.
The Reds added on in the fourth on Josh Hamilton's two-run single, and Maine gave up another run in the fifth on Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single before being relieved.
Maine (14-9) lasted 4 1/3 innings, the second-shortest outing of his 28 starts this season. He logged just 2 2/3 innings in New York's 12-6 loss to the Cubs at Chicago on Aug. 4. He gave up nine hits and six runs with three walks and two strikeouts Wednesday.
"He was erratic at times," Randolph said. "John was just kind of fighting himself at times. He was in and out with his control. We tried to get him through it, but he gave up those late runs."
"This is the first time in a while that I didn't feel all that good, and the results showed it," Maine said. "I had a hard time with my fastball. I tried everything to keep it from running. I noticed in the first inning that, when I was trying to come into [left-handers], it was running out over the middle of the plate."
In his only other career start against Cincinnati, on July 13 at Shea Stadium, he lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs -- four of them earned -- and six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in Cincinnati's 8-4 win.
The Reds added a run in the seventh against right-hander Philip Humber on doubles by Adam Dunn and Encarnacion.
Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.