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Poor defense prevents Reds from sweeping Mets

Just when it seemed the Cincinnati Reds were headed for a big roll, they got a little sidetracked.

The Reds went into the series finale against the New York Mets tied for the National League lead in fielding, but they committed three errors and allowed three unearned runs in an 8-4 loss on Thursday night.

Gold Glove infielders Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen both misplayed chances, and rookie shortstop Zack Cozart also booted a ball in the loss that snapped the Reds' five-game winning streak.

"Over a 162-game season, you're going to have games like this, but the way we'd been playing lately, it's odd," Cozart said. "It was pretty sloppy."

The shaky defense and Mets rookie Matt Harvey teamed up to help New York take an 8-1 lead. Harvey drove in one more run than he allowed in the longest outing of his short career and Ike Davis and Jason Bay hit solo home runs as the Mets avoided a three-game sweep. New York hasn't been swept in Cincinnati since 2005.

Harvey (2-3), who had lost three straight starts after winning in his major league debut, allowed one run and four hits in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter. Harvey also doubled in two runs in New York's three-run fourth inning.

The Reds, who entered with a season-high, seven-game lead in the NL Central, had it cut to six over Pittsburgh.

Jon Rauch came on in relief of struggling Mets closer Frank Francisco and struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Valdez to end the game for his third save. Francisco allowed three runs and four hits, and got only two outs in his second straight rough outing.

The Mets took the lead in the fourth inning, scoring three times after managing a total of one run in their opening two losses to the Reds in the series.

Davis snapped the scoreless tie with his team-leading 21st homer and first since July 28 at Arizona. The leadoff shot, which traveled 421 feet into the right-center field seats, was hit off Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey.

Two outs later, Bay hit a grounder up the middle that second baseman Phillips backhanded and threw over Todd Frazier's head at first base for an infield hit and a throwing error. Kelly Shoppach, making his first appearance with the Mets, was intentionally walked to get to Harvey. The big right-hander then hit a two-run double to deep left-center field that produced his first career RBIs.

The error was Phillips' first in a career-high 84 games, dating to May 6 at Pittsburgh.

"We could've handled 3-0," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They ended up scoring five runs (after) three errors. We gave them three (unearned) runs, and that was the deficit in the ballgame. That's a big deficit to overcome."

Bay increased New York's lead to 4-0 with his sixth homer of the year and first since July 18 at Washington, with one out in the sixth inning. Shoppach reached on Rolen's error, and after Harvey's sacrifice, Ruben Tejada doubled off the left field wall and scored on Mike Baxter's single.

"It's a tough adjustment to walk a guy and then try to throw one down and away," Bailey said. "I left it over the middle. I might as well have put it on a tee for him."

Bailey (10-8) allowed eight hits and six runs, four earned, with three walks, a wild pitch and six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings.

The Reds broke up Harvey's shutout with doubles by Phillips and Jay Bruce in the seventh.

Davis added an RBI double in the ninth, and the Mets tacked on another run on Cozart's error.

Ryan Ludwick led off the ninth with his 23rd homer of the season on the first pitch from Francisco. It extended Ludwick's hitting streak to a season-high eight games. Miguel Cairo drove in another run with a single, and Cozart knocked in one with a double.

Notes: Mets 3B David Wright needs one home run to become the third player to hit 200 with New York. Wright hasn't homered since July 27 at Arizona. ... The Mets' road trip continues with three at Washington. LHP Johan Santana is scheduled to make his second start since coming off on Friday. ... The Reds will open a four-game, three-day home series against the Chicago Cubs, including a split doubleheader on Saturday to make a rain postponement on May 1. RHP Johnny Cueto said he expects to start the first game of the doubleheader.