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07/11/09 11:13 PM ET

Tough first inning seals Reds' fate

Mets get to Cueto early; lineup loses Bruce to wrist fracture

NEW YORK -- The road back to the Reds' team hotel from Citi Field might as well have been a Boulevard of Broken Dreams on Saturday night.

A 4-0 loss to the Mets was demoralizing on multiple fronts, and will certainly have lasting implications.

Jay Bruce suffered a fractured right wrist in the first inning that will likely keep him out several weeks. And Johnny Cueto will go into the All-Star break thinking about his past two very subpar performances.

Bruce was attempting a sliding catch on David Wright's shallow single to right field when his gloved right hand jammed into the ground and bent backwards. Bruce immediately grabbed his wrist and was taken out of the game for X-rays that showed the bad news.

"I knew it wasn't good," Bruce said after the game.

Wright was only Cueto's third batter of the game, but by that time, he already had his hands full with two runners on base. Before Wright, Cueto gave up Angel Pagan's single and a four-pitch walk to Luis Castillo.

"Johnny had a very untimely walk of Castillo," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

With one out, Jeff Francoeur blooped a two-run single into right field. After the inning's second walk that reloaded the bases, Omir Santos hit a RBI single that put the Reds in a 3-0 hole. Cueto faced nine batters in the inning and threw 36 pitches.

In the Mets' second inning, Pagan led off with a triple through the gap in right-center field and scored on Castillo's RBI single for a 4-0 lead.

"They really didn't hit him that hard," Baker said. "It was just a matter of walks and a couple of bloopers. His balls were sinking out of the strike zone on the walks. And he centered some balls over the heart of the plate. When you do that, you're going to get hit."

After Castillo's hit, Cueto looked much better and retired nine of his next 10 batters. But the damage was already inflicted as the 23-year-old lasted five innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He threw 101 pitches.

The early jump on Cueto made Mets ace Johan Santana's night all the easier. Santana pitched seven scoreless innings and gave up five hits and one walk with six strikeouts. Although Chris Dickerson and Edwin Encarnacion each had two-out doubles in the game, no Reds baserunner reached third base vs. Santana.

"You give that guy a lead and he's extremely tough," Baker said. "He's tough without the lead."

On July 1, when Cueto buried the D-backs with six scoreless innings in a win, he had a 2.69 ERA that was fourth in the National League. He was a candidate for the All-Star roster. Since he was overlooked, his numbers have been ghastly.

Cueto's ERA over his past two starts is 20.65 and that includes his previous outing when he lasted a career-short two-thirds of an inning and gave up nine runs in a historic 22-1 Reds loss to the Phillies on Monday. Now, his ERA sits at 3.62.

"I was a little bit feeling down," Cueto said. "It's part of the game. I wasn't selected to the All-Star Game. I had some good numbers and I wasn't picked. I didn't let it stop me, but I wanted to do a good job. But my head wasn't in it."

The Reds' record fell to 42-44, which gives them no chance to finish the first half with a winning record. They remained 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central race.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.