Light-hitting Mets can't solve Arroyo as pair of homers enough to power Reds

NEW YORK -- The Mets are sinking fast, and Bronson Arroyo kept getting them to beat the ball into the ground.

Arroyo threw a four-hitter for his second career shutout, Joey Votto and Laynce Nix homered off Fernando Nieve, and the Cincinnati Reds defeated helpless New York 3-0 Friday night.

"I had kind of a hard changeup that was diving down," said Arroyo, who got 15 ground-ball outs. "Obviously, having a watered-down lineup helped, too."

Before the game, New York traded Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves for Jeff Francoeur and cash in a swap of outfielders who had fallen out of favor with their teams. The Mets then went out and lost for the sixth time in seven games and 11th in 14, drawing frequent and loud boos from the crowd of 39,203 at Citi Field.

With Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran on the disabled list, more deals could be ahead if the Mets fade further in the NL East before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers. Following a 28-21 start, the Mets have gone 12-24 since May and dropped five games under .500 for the first time since an 0-5 start in 2005 under new manager Willie Randolph. They've fallen 6 1/2 games behind first-place Philadelphia.

"Lately we've had to play perfect to win each and every game," said David Wright, batting .227 since Beltran went on the DL. "When you don't score, you can't win. It's as simple as that."

Since Beltran last played June 21, New York has scored three runs or fewer in 13 of 18 games and been shut out five times. The Mets have three shutout losses in a five-game span for the first time since getting blanked three times in a row July 25-27, 1992, according to STATS LLC.

New York did not get a runner to second base against Arroyo, and has not homered in 66 consecutive innings since Fernando Tatis connected at Pittsburgh on July 2.

"It becomes difficult to explain it," manager Jerry Manuel said.

A night after losing to Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Randy Wolf, who had been winless in seven starts, the Mets fell to Arroyo (9-8), who had been 1-5 in seven outings since May. Arroyo struck out five and walked none in his eighth complete game in 211 starts. His other shutout was a three-hitter against San Francisco on Sept. 5, 2006.

"He was dealing tonight," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's the most ground balls I've seen in a long time."

New York's only hits were a bloop single by Nieve in the third, a bunt single by Argenis Reyes in the sixth, and clean singles by Daniel Murphy in the seventh and ninth.

After Angel Pagan's leadoff flyout to center fielder Willy Taveras, who made a sliding catch, the Reds didn't have another outfield putout until pinch-hitter Gary Sheffield flied out to left ending the eighth.

"You're obviously thankful not to see Reyes, Beltran and Delgado in the lineup," said Arroyo, 6-1 in his last eight starts against the Mets. "Anybody who says they want to see those guys in the lineup so they can face them is crazy."

Cincinnati, which hasn't had a winning record since 2000, entered fifth in the six-team NL Central at 41-43 and had lost four of its previous five games.

Nieve (3-3) pitched decently but lost his third straight outing following a 3-0 start with New York. He gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings.

Votto put the Reds ahead in the fourth with a drive about two rows into the left-field seats, just the sixth opposite-field homer at Citi Field. The Reds made it 2-0 when Brandon Phillips doubled, took third on a wild pitch and scored as Jerry Hairston Jr. missed a squeeze bunt. Wright took the throw from Brian Schneider, had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and then threw high to the plate, with the ball glancing off the top of the catcher's glove. Phillips was credited with a steal of home.

Nix homered with one out in the sixth, driving the ball into the second deck in right.

Votto's drive was the most impressive.

"I hit it pretty good, and I got a little loft on it, but I almost tripped over first base watching it," he said. "I thought it had a chance to go out, but I've heard so many things about this place, I wasn't sure."

Game notes
The crowd set a Guinness record in the middle of the second inning for most potato chips crunched simultaneously, part of a promotion. ... Mets RHP John Maine (shoulder) threw a bullpen session and Manuel said he could return by the end of the month. ... New York didn't homer in 70 consecutive innings from May 13-22, according to STATS.