Niese game, but suffers lame result

New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay had smoked what seemed destined to be a tiebreaking extra-base hit in the sixth inning Wednesday night.

Upon reaching first base, he learned otherwise.

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Chris Heisey raced into the gap to corral Bay's shot and strand David Wright in scoring position. Heisey then homered off left-hander Jon Niese the following half-inning and the Mets ultimately dropped their rubber game with the National League Central-leading Reds, 3-1, at Citi Field.

The Mets had won six straight home series since losing a May 12 rubber game against the Washington Nationals, when Roger Bernadina belted a tiebreaking two-run homer in the ninth off Francisco Rodriguez. Cincinnati won the season series from the Mets for the first time since 2001 -- snapping the third-longest drought by one NL team against another.

"I kind of had a 'no way' as I rounded first," Bay said about his shot to right-center, which Heisey tracked down to preserve a 1-all tie. "I saw the replay and he caught it in stride. He made a great play. It's just one of those things. What are you going to do? The guy makes a good play."

With the loss, the Mets dropped three games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves entering a weekend series between the teams in Flushing that closes the first half.

As for Niese, he departed to applause with two out in the eighth inning. He nonetheless left with the Mets trailing, and ultimately suffered his first loss in six decisions since returning from the disabled list a month ago.

Niese had been 5-0 in six starts since returning from a hamstring strain. He hardly was touched by the high-octane Reds offense while matching a career high with eight strikeouts.

The lone hit Niese surrendered through six innings came on a solo homer with two out in the third by Brandon Phillips that evened the score at 1.

"He's a strong hitter," Niese said about Phillips. "As soon as you want to throw soft, he's going to pull it hard. And even when you go hard away, he's a good hitter. He's going to take it the other way, and he's got good power."

Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo matched Niese's performance, then benefited from the superb play by Heisey in the sixth inning to preserve the tie. A half-inning later, Heisey produced the second hit surrendered by Niese -- a solo homer to left field that gave the Reds a 2-1 lead. Cincinnati had a two-run cushion by the time the seventh ended, although it was based on misfortune, not ineffectiveness, by Niese.

After Heisey's homer, Drew Stubbs followed with a squibber down the third-base line. Wright waited to see if it would roll foul, but the ball stayed in play for an infield single. After Corky Miller lined out for the second out, Arroyo popped up a bunt that landed behind the mound for an infield hit. Phillips followed by dropping what was ruled a ground-rule double inside the right-field line as Cincinnati took a 3-1 lead.

With Arroyo having departed after throwing 99 pitches, Ike Davis smoked a leadoff double to right-center to open the bottom of the ninth against Reds closer Francisco Cordero. Josh Thole drew a one-out walk, but Jesus Feliciano lined out on a hard shot to center field and Alex Cora flied out to right to end it.

Niese had allowed four runs on a career-high 12 hits in six innings on May 5 in Cincinnati.

"I wanted to go after them today," Niese said. "I thought Thole and I did a great job working in on guys. Unfortunately, we got the loss. I made a couple of mistakes in some unfortunate circumstances out there. It just wasn't our day."

Said Cora: "He's been outstanding. I don't like comparing guys, but he reminds me a lot of Jon Lester a few years ago in Boston. He seems like he's getting better and better -- a lot of confidence on the mound."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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