By MARK SCHMETZER Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) _ The Cincinnati Reds probably would have liked Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first career appearance against them to come at another time _ such as next season.
Matsuzaka scattered four hits in 7 2-3 innings to win his third consecutive start, outdueling Mat Latos in the New York Mets’ 1-0 victory on Wednesday that further dampened the Reds’ hopes of hosting the National League wild-card game on Tuesday.
Eric Young Jr. drove in the only run for the Mets, who won two of three in the series.
The Reds came into the game in third place in the Central Division and second in the wild-card standings, one game behind Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Reds end the regular season with a three-game series starting Friday in Cincinnati.
“We have to find a way to get that big hit,” manager Dusty Baker said. “This team (Reds) seems to take the hard road most of the time. It is very important to have the home field advantage but it’s not impossible no matter where you play.”
Matsuzaka (3-3) allowed two walks and hit a batter. He struck out six and evened his record after three losses and a no-decision in his first four starts since joining the Mets in August. Manager Terry Collins said the former Boston Red Sox ace had definitely pitched his way into the Mets plans for next season.
“We’ve got to bring a lot of guys in, because you never know what might happen,” he said. “We’re looking for veteran guys coming into camp, and you can add his name to the list for sure.”
Matsuzaka will welcome any opportunity, including the Mets.
“If the Mets feel that way, it would be an honor and something I’d take very seriously,” he said.
Matsuzaka, who slightly injured his back striking out in the fourth but still managed to get a hit in the seventh, left the game with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth. Pedro Feliciano came on to walk Shin-Soo Choo before getting Joey Votto to fly out to center fielder Juan Lagares for the fourth time in four at bats.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
The shutout loss was Cincinnati’s 11th of the season, after only four last season.
The Mets (73-85) earned their 10th shutout and New York finished its road schedule with a winning record (41-40), wrapping up a 5-1 trip.
Before a crowd of 26,223, which lifted Cincinnati’s season attendance to a Great American Ball Park-record 2,371,103, the Mets pushed across a run in the third.
Latos hit Wilfredo Tovar to open the inning. Tovar went to second on Matsuzaka’s sacrifice and moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on Young’s single to right through a drawn-in infield.
Matsuzaka made the lead stand up with help from catcher Juan Centeno, who threw out Reds rookie base-stealing sensation Billy Hamilton, who was trying to swipe second with two outs in the fifth inning. Hamilton had been successful on his previous 13 attempts, and Centeno caught him without the assistance of a pitchout.
That’s his story line shutting down the running game,” Collins said about Centeno. “He shut down a guy who could end up being the best base stealer of all time. That’s what we ask him to do to and he made it look easy.”
The scouting report on Hamilton made it easy for Centeno to be ready.
“I was excited,” the catcher said. “As soon as he got on base, I got ready. I know he likes to go early.”
It wasn’t all Centeno, Baker pointed out.
“The catcher put the ball right on the toe,” Baker said. “Daisuke varied his delivery. He went to a slide step. It was going to happen sometimes and that’s what it takes.”
Latos (14-7) allowed four hits and one run with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. He also hit two batters in slipping to 0-2 in four starts since his last win on Sept. 2 against St. Louis.
“To take the positive out of today, I stayed healthy all year, made all my starts, set a career-high in innings,” Latos said. “Whenever I do get the ball again, I’ll be ready to go, ready to compete. I felt strong. Velocity was up. I’ll take it into the next start.”
NOTES: Daniel Murphy’s first inning steal of second was his 20th straight without being caught, the third-longest streak in Mets history. He had been tied with Tommie Agee (1971). Murphy is one steal shy of matching Kevin McReynolds (1988). … In Friday’s series opener, RHP Homer Bailey (11-11), who pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates at Pittsburgh last Sept. 28, is scheduled to face RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11), who beat the Reds 4-2 last Saturday. … The Mets open their final series of the season at home on Thursday against Milwaukee. RHP Dillon Gee (12-10) will pitch for New York against RHP Johnny Hellweg (1-4). … Mets manager Terry Collins said Matsuzaka will most likely start on Sunday if New York decides against using LHP Jonathon Niese.
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