By Hal McCoy
The Cincinnati Reds were one strike away from their fifth straight victory Saturday night in Citi Field.
That strike never came.
A two-out, two-strike single in the bottom of the ninth by Dominic Smith off relief pitcher Sean Doolittle tied the game and sent it into extra innings.
And it was only one extra inning because the New York Mets scored in the bottom of the 10th for a walk-off 5-4 victory.
And he new hired help in the bullpen didn’t help.
Newly acquired relief pitcher Luis Cessa pitched the 10th and the first batter he faced, Brandon Drury, poked a soft single to right field, scoring ghost runner Kevin Pillar from second.
The Reds had runners on third and first with no outs in the top of the 10th, but New York’s hard-throwing closer, Edwin Diaz, struck out Kyle Farmer and Joey Votto before retiring Tyler Naquin on a soft line drive.
And it cost the Reds a chance to gain a game on the first place Milwaukee Brewers, who lost in Atlanta. So the Reds continue to spin their back tires in second place, seven games behind.
The big news before the ninth was that Joey Votto did not hit a home run. He missed by six inches.
The bigger news was that Eugenio Suarez did hit a home run, a three-run blast in the fourth inning that was headed for the East River before it was stopped by the upper deck, 440 feet from home plate.
Suarez, hitting .171 and more likely to strike out this season rather than put the ball in play, launched the Reds to a 3-1 lead.
Votto had homered nine times in his previous seven game, a club record for home run in consecutive games. The streak ended on a 1 for 5 night, but his drive to right field in the eighth inning hit six inches below carrying the wall, a drive that would have been a home run in 10 major league parks, including Great American Ball Park.
The Reds were on their way to winning their fifth straight behind the pitching of Wade Miley, who forced the Mets to tear up the infield turf with 12 ground ball outs.
Miley pitched seven innings and gave up three runs, five hits, walked three and struck out two.
Michael Lorenzen, two days off the injured list, pitched his second straight 1-2-3 inning in the two victories of this three-game series that concludes Sunday afternoon.
What appeared to be the decisive run for the Reds arrived in the fifth when Kyle Farmer connected for a two-out home run, his career-best 10th homer that gave the Reds a 4-1 lead.
Trouble surfaced for Miley in the sixth when he walked Jonathan Villar and Pete Alonso blooped a single to left, putting runners on second and first with no outs.
He appeared safely out of trouble when he picked off Villar at second and left fielder Jesse Winker chased down Jeff McNeil’s long drive to deep left center.
But Baez, acquired Friday via trade with the Chicago Cubs, made his first Mets’ hit a long, high one — a two-run home run into the left field seats cutting Cincinnati’s lead to 4-3.
“It was a pitch on which I’ve used many times to get him out, but he put a good swing on it,” said Miley.
It stayed that way until the ninth when Heath Hembree walked Jeff McNeil and wild pitched him to second base. He struck out Baez, who swung at two pitches out of the strike zone, and struck out James McCann.
Left hander Sean Doolittle was brought in to face lefty Dominic Smith and had him under control with fastballs between 95 an 97 miles an hour. Then he tried to sneak a breaking pitch past him Smith dumped it into center field for a game-tying single
Then came the fatal 10th.
“Pretty frustrating when you think you have a game in hand,” said Votto. “When you play a good team the margin for error is small. We just came up short.
“My home run stretch ended on a 109 miles an hour drive off the wall,” he said. “It was fun while it lasted especially when it came during a stretch where we were winning games. It probably won’t ever happen again, but it was fun.”