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CIN@NYM: Bruce connects on two-out two-run homer

NEW YORK -- The Reds are now trudging along with a 1-3 record, when they know they could just as easily be off to a 4-0 start. That's because the difference in each of their three losses has been one run.

The latest narrow defeat came in a 4-3 series-opening loss to the Mets on Friday at a cold, rainy Citi Field.

"It's frustrating," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "Whether it's the fourth game or the 104th game, you feel like you're in striking distance and you want to take care of business. We just have to find a way."

There hasn't been a lack of luck for the Reds in the losses, but a lack of production when it's needed most.

Besides hitting .201 (27-for-134) as a team through four games, they are batting .166 (5-for-30) with runners in scoring position. That including going 2-for-9 Friday and stranding 10 men on base.

"It's frustrating to lose. Sometimes it's more frustrating to lose by a run than it is to get blown out," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We just weren't able to put up the runs we needed to win the game. That's frustrating but it's four games into the season. We're not seeing any teams that are in midseason form. We certainly need to be optimistic that we're going to come back tomorrow."

All of the RBIs in the game came via the bats of only two players -- Bruce and Mets first baseman Lucas Duda.

After Mets starter Jenrry Mejia ran into trouble with two walks in the third inning, Bruce made it a 1-0 game with his two-out RBI single to right-center field.

Despite Mejia issuing five walks and four hits in the game, he also struck out a career-high eight batters to escape a few jams during his six innings and 101 pitches -- including 71 through the first four innings.

Meanwhile, Reds starter Mike Leake gave up four earned runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with three walks and three strikeouts in his 2014 debut.

Leake came away unscathed from a 26-pitch Mets first inning that featured a pair of two-out walks to load the bases. Then he settled into retiring a stretch of seven in a row, before again encountering turbulence in the fourth. He did not blame the weather conditions for his troubles.

"The first couple of games, you kind of expect a little bit of rustiness coming because it is so different from Spring Training," Leake said. "So far, the pitchers have done a great job. Today, a couple of pitches killed me."

Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff double against the shift to left field before Duda lifted a first pitch changeup for a two-run homer to right field. That snapped an 0-for-13 stretch for Duda since last season, including 0-for-6 this season.

Six more Mets were retired in a row before David Wright reached on a leadoff single to the shortstop in the sixth. Two batters later, Duda returned to pull a 2-1 fastball over the right-field fence for his second two-run homer. It's been a small but fruitful sample size vs. Leake for Duda, who is 6-for-8.

"It was the Lucas Duda-Jay Bruce show today. Lucas Duda won," Leake said.

Bruce gave Duda a run for his money, however, against a combustible Mets bullpen that entered having allowed 12 runs (11 earned) over its previous 9 1/3 innings this season. Lefty John Lannan gave up a one-out single to Brandon Phillips and with two outs, Bruce drove a 3-2 pitch to right-center field for a two-run homer, his second long ball in two days.

It was also Bruce's 45th homer vs. a left-handed pitcher since 2010, the most by any Major League hitter in that span.

There was another shot in the eighth when Brayan Pena hit a one-out single off Kyle Farnsworth and Billy Hamilton was summoned to pinch-run in an attempt to tie the game.

Hamilton attempted to steal second base on a 0-1 pitch but was thrown out by catcher Anthony Recker. In 15 big league steal attempts, Hamilton has been thrown out just twice -- both times vs. the Mets. Juan Centeno nailed him last season.

"I actually faced him in the Minor Leagues a couple years ago and he's just as fast as he was then. He can still run," Recker said. "Honestly, I'd like to say I threw him out twice in two tries [in the Minors], but both times they called him safe. But my shortstop told me that he was out both times so I'll believe him, because I thought he was out both times."

Cincinnati had one final shot in the ninth when closer Jose Valverde issued a one-out walk to Roger Bernadina and a single to Brandon Phillips. The rally fizzled when a first-pitch swinging Joey Votto flied out near the left-field line and Bruce struck out to end the game. The Mets won their first game after starting out 0-3 vs. the Nationals.

"We're going to find a way to score a lot more runs and get away from these one-run games hopefully," Price said.

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