By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — No matter how bad it is for the New York Mets, no matter how feeble they are playing, the Cincinnati Reds are the perfect medication.
Especially if Homer Bailey is pitching in Great American Ball Park.
The Mets staggered into the city dragging a six-game losing streak and losses in nine of their last 10 games.
And they walked away late Monday night with a 7-6 victory.
So what is different about that? The Mets are 19-3 over the Reds in the last 22 meetings and outscored them 119-74.
They are now 4-and-0 in Great American Ball Park against Homer Bailey. His 200th career start was disastrous — four innings, six runs, eight hits, one walk, three strikeouts and three home runs.
But give him credit. Knowing the bullpen was wrecked and despite knowing he didn’t have good stuff, Bailey wanted to keep going out there to gobble up some innings and save some arms.
Yes, three home runs off Homer. Bailey, 0-and-5 on the season and the Reds are 0-and-7 in his seven starts, has given up 11 home runs in 43 1/3 innings.
—The first home run came on the second pitch of the game to leadoff hitter Michael Conforto, hittting .184.
—The second home run was a two-run blast by Jay Bruce, returning to Great American Ball Park for only the second time since the Reds traded him.
—The third home run was a solo shot by Adrian Gonzalez, who uses Bailey as a batting practice pitcher/punching bag. In only 27 at bats, Gonzalez has seven home runs against Bailey and 16 hits (.593).
“I think the next time I face him I’m going to throw him a knuckleball,” said Bailey. “I’ve tried everything else. And I had him 0-and-2.”
Perhaps knowing they can throw about anybody on the mound against their cousins, the Reds, the Mets started a rookie born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Left hander P.J. Conlon, was given a 6-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning as his family and friends from Belfast, seated behind the Mets dugout, cheered loudly and lustily.
The Reds scored in the third when suddenly hot Billy Hamilton, batting ninth and batting right handed, pulled a home run into the left field stands.
They knocked Conlon off the mound in the fourth with three doubles by Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and Tucker Barnhart that produced two runs, cutting New York’s lead to 6-3.
Jackson Stephens, a starting pitcher at Class AAA Louisville, was called up Monday to eat some innings if Bailey failed to pitch six or seven innings. Bailey didn’t pitch five innings. So Stephens took over.
Stephens joined Bailey’s Home Run Party by giving up the second of the game hit by Adrian Gonzalez with two outs in the fifth inning that gave the Mets a 7-3 lead.
The Reds drew to within two runs in the sixth inning on a leadoff home run by Eugenio Suarez, back-to-back one-out singles by Adam Duvall and Tucker Barnhart and a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Alex Blandino.
The Reds crept ever closer in the eighth inning against Robert Gsellman when Scooter Gennett cranked an opposite field home run to left field, the Reds’ third homer of the night, cutting New York’s lead to 7-6.
The comeback ran out of time in the ninth inning against New York closer Jeurys Familia, who had blown three of his last save opportunities. He struck out Rosell Herrera, retired Billy Hamilton on a meek fly ball to left and struck out Jesse Winker. And the deed was done.
The Mets raked 13 hits, with a season’s high eight extra base hits, four home runs and four doubles.
Bruce finished the night 2 for 4 with a walk, a two-run home run and a single. It was not a fun homecoming for Todd Frazier, though. He was 0 for 5 and hit into an inning-ending double play in the ninth with two on and one out.
“We’ve been down three or four runs in many games,” said Riggleman. “With the exception of yesterday (8-5 loss to Miami) I’m really proud of our guys over how they’ve got after it. For some reason, we fell flat Sunday when we were down just a couple.
“We went right back at it tonight with a lot of energy in the dugout, some great at bats,” he added. “I just can’t say enough about Duvall’s plays in left field. Adam has been struggling with the bat but shows his character by laying out on a couple of balls. A great effort and we just came up short.”
Riggleman, chin high and eyes blazing, remains confident and said, “I’m really proud to go out there with that ball club. Some day it is going to click in and we’re going to make some noise in this division.”
Of Bailey’s outing, Riggleman said, “I felt like he was throwing the ball well and the results were not there. His velocity was better than it has been, but he left a couple of off-speed pitches up and they took advantage of it.
“I was proud of Homer tonight because he knew where we were with our bullpen,” he added. “He was out there taking his lumps and wanted to continue. He had no designs of coming out of that game. He would have pitched seven or eight innings to protect our bullpen. That was the attitude of a real pro.”