CINCINNATI (AP) — Jon Niese welcomes the chance to go out as a winner.
Niese limited Cincinnati's offense for seven innings, and Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer, leading the New York Mets to a 4-2 victory Tuesday night that dealt a costly setback to the Reds' hopes of another division title.
Cincinnati's Mike Leake (14-7) gave up four runs and eight hits in only 1 2-3 innings, matching the shortest start of his career. Wilfredo Tovar ended Leake's scoreless innings streak at 21 2-3 with an RBI single, and Murphy's homer gave Niese (8-8) the big lead.
The left-hander has pitched well since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 11 after recovering from a partial tear in his shoulder. He could start the final game of the Mets' season on Sunday, giving him a chance to finish with a winning record.
"I want to pitch," he said. "It's my turn, and I don't want to put another guy in an awkward position."
Manager Terry Collins hasn't decided if he'll let him pitch again or have him rest the shoulder.
"He's got a chance to go 9-8," Collins said. "I'll talk to Jon in a couple of days and see how he feels."
Niese kept lefties Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in check again, holding them to a combined 0 for 6 with four strikeouts. Niese allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings. Vic Black faced three batters in the ninth, getting his first career save on his second try.
Eric Young Jr. had a single and a double, scored a run and stole his 42nd base for the Mets, who have won eight of 12.
The defeat was costly for Cincinnati.
The Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates clinched playoff spots on Monday night, but hoped to chase down the first-place St. Louis Cardinals with closing surges. Leake's one very bad inning made that much less likely for the Reds.
Cincinnati fell a daunting three games behind St. Louis, which beat Washington 2-0 on Tuesday night. If they can't catch up, the Reds are headed for the wild card playoff game in a week.
It was a stunning outing for Leake, who has been the Reds' most effective starter lately. The right-hander allowed a total of two runs while winning his last three starts and getting his career-high 14th win.
Leake gave up two singles in the first inning before escaping. Mike Baxter led off the second with a double and scored on Tovar's single.