NEW YORK -- As far as Reds pitcher Aaron Harang was concerned, the first half of this season can stuffed into a safe and dropped into the East River. Ditto for the Reds' last game before the All-Star break, after they were dealt a 9-7 loss at the hands of the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. "I wish it would have been done a long time ago," said Harang about end of the first half. "I will take these few days off and get my mind back and come back and move forward and not worry about it."
Not only was Harang roughed up, it was a game where right fielder Chris Dickerson came out with back spasms and Joey Votto earned the first ejection of his young career. Reds manager Dusty Baker used every position player on his bench, plus pitcher Micah Owings as a pinch-hitter. The seven-game road trip through Philadelphia and New York ended with a 2-5 record. The Reds are a season-high three games under .500 with a 42-45 record. "The break is coming at a good time, and I hope we get some breaks in the second half," Baker said. "We didn't get a bunch of breaks in the first half. We have a whole bunch of breaks coming to us." The game ultimately ended with the Reds having the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth. But they spent the whole afternoon playing catchup. Harang's winless streak reached nine starts and he is 0-5 with a 5.26 ERA since his last victory on May 25. Five of those starts were quality outings, but Sunday's certainly didn't qualify. He lasted only three innings and allowed five earned runs on eight hits with one walk and two strikeouts. The Mets took a 1-0 lead when Luis Castillo scored on David Wright's long double to center field. The high drive was definitely catchable for Willy Taveras, who got turned around as he couldn't track the ball properly. Harang faced eight Mets batters in the four-run bottom of the third inning. After back-to-back one-out singles, Gary Sheffield rolled a two-run single up the middle. With two outs, David Murphy ripped a double into right field and made it 5-0. "Today they hit him pretty good," Baker said. "Most of the time, he's been throwing the ball pretty well, except for today. That's why I got him out of there so early. I didn't want to take him out, but with the offense we're displaying lately, I didn't want to give them too big of a margin or come back from too big of a deficit." "I just didn't have my location," said Harang, who is 5-9 with a 4.18 ERA this season. "I was missing spots, falling behind and having to come back and throw strikes. They were out there swinging." It was 7-0 when the Reds finally put something together against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey (7-4) with a three-run top of the fifth. But they were playing shorthanded offensively at that point without Votto, their best hitter. In the top of the fourth, Votto was ejected for arguing his second called third strike of the game with home-plate umpire Bill Welke. Votto, who throught the Pelfrey pitch was inside, was given a long rope to vent by Welke, but eventually got the hook. Votto said he's been ejected "about once every year" in the Minors, but this marked his first one in the Majors. He admitted it was frustration from being called out on strikes six times during the road trip, including his past three at-bats. "I'd like to thank Bill Welke for christening me with my first ejection," Votto said. "I didn't do anything or offend him in any way. I didn't go below the belt. I had a basic disagreement with him as far as what was a ball and a strike. He's a good guy. I don't have a problem with Bill at all. I just stood there a little too long and he ran me. He's a good guy." The Reds' efforts at a comeback were hampered by a pair of Mets home runs by Brian Schneider and Fernando Tatis in the bottom of the seventh against reliever David Weathers. They proved to be the difference in the game. The Mets had gone without a homer since July 2, a span of 80 innings over eight games. The Reds still had their first four batters reach in the eighth with RBI singles by Brandon Phillips and Ramon Hernandez before loading the bases with no outs. The rally faded as only one more run crossed when Jerry Hairston Jr. beat out a double play. "We have to get better in the second half at picking up runners and not only coming back, but coming all the way back and getting over the top," Baker said. The Reds scored one more run in the ninth off Francisco Rodriguez and had a runner on first when Laynce Nix struck out to end the game. "Nobody is out of it yet," Harang said of the Reds. "Coming in that close to the break, hopefully we can take these few days off and get everything going in the right direction."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.