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Niese sharp in return, Mets lose to Reds 2-1
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jonathon Niese put to rest any worries about his health. Travis d'Arnaud did little to set aside any concerns about his ability to hit big league pitching.
Niese was sharp into the sixth inning of his injury delayed first start of the season Sunday, when the New York Mets lost 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds, missing an opportunity to finish off a three-game sweep.
"I was very, very impressed, his velocity stayed consistent throughout the game," manager Terry Collins said of Niese. "He's got a repertoire that's going to get people out."
Niese (0-1), who was slowed by shoulder weakness and elbow inflammation this spring, held Cincinnati to two hits through five innings but gave up three straight singles to open the sixth, beginning with Reds fill-in starter Alfredo Simon (1-0).
Chris Heisey, in the lineup for Billy Hamilton, who has a jammed left middle finger, and Brandon Phillips each singled to load the bases, and Joey Votto followed with a sacrifice fly and Ryan Ludwick singled to left for a 2-1 lead.
Jay Bruce then grounded to first base, ending Niese's day on his 90th pitch.
The left-hander allowed six hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings in front of dozens of dogs at Citi Field on Bark in the Park day.
"I feel good, felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty well, obviously didn't have any pain," Niese said.
Collins thought the Mets had a chance to take a lead in the seventh when d'Arnaud sent a drive to left but it was caught at the warning track, extending the catcher's hitless start to 0 for 15.
"There's no easy answers here," Collins said. "The only way you do it is grind it out and have an approach, stick with it."
The Mets went into the season with the 25-year-old d'Arnaud as their primary catcher and no veteran backup the system. He missed much of last year on the disabled list and hit only .202 (20 for 99) in a 31-game stint in New York.
D'Arnaud was acquired from Toronto along with top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard for R.A. Dickey after the knuckleballer won the CY Young Award in 2012 and the Mets are expecting him to be their starting catcher for years to come.
Right now, though, all Collins is concerned with is if d'Arnaud is letting this slump affect him psychologically.
"I'm worried about his mental approach more than anything," Collins said.
Said d'Arnaud: "My swing feels good, just trying to make good contact."
D'Arnaud threw out Phillips trying to steal second base in the third inning.
Simon pitched seven impressive innings in his first start since Sept. 28, 2011, for Baltimore, but manager Price tapped the right-hander because Mat Latos is rehabbing from knee and elbow operations. And Simon didn't disappoint. He allowed just four hits - including Juan Lagares' RBI single in the second - and threw 79 pitches.
Manny Parra retired all six batters he faced for his first career save, pitching the ninth instead of J.J. Hoover, who gave up Ike Davis' walkoff grand slam Saturday. Parra struck out Davis to end it Sunday.
"Can't ask for any more for Simon and Manny Parra," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
The Mets finished their first homestand 2-4 after struggling in Queens last season. They begin a nine-game trip in Atlanta on Tuesday and, even though Davis has four hits in his last six at-bats, Collins is going to stick with Lucas Duda at first base.
"I feel pretty good as a player right now," Davis said despite his new role as a bench player.
NOTES: The Mets struck out 61 times on the homestand, the most through their first six games. ... Curtis Granderson was 0 for 4 with two Ks and has fanned eight times in 24 at-bats. ... Phillips has a hit in all 29 games he's played against the Mets in New York. ... Mets INF Wilmer Flores was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Niese.
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