Nearly two months ago, Alfredo Simon appeared in his first All-Star game and was in the running to give the Cincinnati Reds their first Cy Young winner.
Instead of closing in on that goal, he's done what no Reds pitcher has in 24 years.Simon seeks only his second win since the All-Star break when Cincinnati opens a three-game home set against the New York Mets on Friday night.The 33-year-old Simon (13-9, 3.28 ERA) spent his first six seasons primarily as a reliever before this year and was quite impressive early on, going 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA through his first 18 starts to earn an All-Star spot as an injury replacement. He began 2014 by allowing one run in seven innings of a 2-1 road win over the Mets on April 6.The right-hander hasn't been as effective since the break, however, with a 1-6 record and 4.62 ERA over his last nine starts. He is the first Cincinnati pitcher since Jack Armstrong in 1990 with at least 11 wins before the break and a 1-6 stretch afterward.Armstrong was the last Reds pitcher to start an All-Star game, and Simon matched the "All-American Boy" with Saturday's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh. Simon gave up all of the Pirates' runs in the first inning before leaving with seven strikeouts after the seventh."It's kind of the theme to the second part of the season, how he gets out of the gates," manager Bryan Price told MLB's website. "It's not typically five or six great innings followed by a tough seventh. The damage is early, and then he's able to recover."That was the theme for the Reds (66-74) at Baltimore on Thursday, when they gave up six runs in the first and rallied to tie it before losing 9-7 to close a 1-5 road trip.Cincinnati is trying to avoid dropping nine games under .500 for the first time since Sept. 24, 2009.Devin Mesoraco is 10 for 21 with six RBIs in seven games. He had four hits with a double and a homer while plating four runs Thursday, but he's 8 for 38 (.211) in 12 career meetings with the Mets (66-74). A strained oblique kept the All-Star catcher out while the Reds dropped two of three in New York from April 4-6.The Mets, who beat Miami 4-3 on Wednesday, are trying to win three in a row for the first time since a four-game streak July 11-18.They'll turn to Bartolo Colon (12-11, 4.01), who is looking to rebound after surrendering six runs in 5 1/3 innings of Saturday's 7-2 loss to Philadelphia.The right-hander had won two of his previous three starts with a 1.71 ERA, a stretch that included a pair of trips to the Dominican Republic -- the most recent to attend his mother's funeral."I'm going to cut him a little slack this time," manager Terry Collins told MLB's website Saturday. "That's some long trips he's had in the last 10 days, back and forth like that. I don't know if he just ran out of gas, but obviously he was getting way too much plate."Colon was hammered by the Reds on Aug. 7, 2013, giving up five runs and being pulled with two outs in the third of a 6-5 loss while with Oakland. He had a 2.37 ERA and won his previous three meetings with Cincinnati, though the most recent came in 2007.
Johnny Cueto has stuck out 144 batters on hard stuff this season (fastballs, cutters, sinkers and splitters), second most in MLB (David Price, 183). The Mets are batting .257 against such pitches this season, tied for fifth-worst in MLB.