CINCINNATI -- Three games into his rookie season as the Mets manager, Willie Randolph already has something in common with the famous Casey Stengel.
They both started badly.
Aaron Harang allowed only one single in 6 1/3 innings Thursday, and D'Angelo Jimenez had a pinch two-run double off Kazuhisa Ishii that sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-1 victory and plunged New York into its worst start since 1964.
The Reds are 3-0 for the first time since 1990, when they won their first nine and swept Oakland in the World Series. The last time they swept the Mets at home was 1995, also a noteworthy year -- the last time Cincinnati reached the playoffs.
Good omens all around.
"This is exactly how you want it to be," said closer Danny Graves, who got his first save. "We did what we're supposed to do. All three games, we did everything right."
The Mets haven't stumbled so badly at the start since they dropped their first four games in 1964, Stengel's third year managing a fledgling club that redefined losing. The Mets dropped their first nine games in the inaugural 1962 season, on their way to a standard-setting 120 losses. They went 0-8 and lost 111 a year later. By those measures, their 0-4 start in 1964 was deemed an improvement.
This one is nothing but trouble.
"I don't think anybody coming out of spring training expected this," said Doug Mientkiewicz, who was 0-for-4. "We didn't play well."
The Mets grabbed offseason headlines with their high-priced overhaul, committing $172 million to Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. Their $105 million payroll is the NL's largest and ranks third overall, trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox.
The bullpen blew a ninth-inning lead in the season opener, won by Joe Randa's homer. Randa had a grand slam and six RBI as Cincinnati won the second game as well.
Harang completed the sweep with one of the best performances of his career, allowing only three walks and Ramon Castro's second-inning single before letting the bullpen take over.
"I felt like I could throw any pitch in any count," said Harang, who walked three and struck out five.
The Mets failed to get an extra-base hit and lost even though they outhit the Reds 4-3. Graves retired Mike Piazza on a fly ball with the bases loaded to end it, one of several wasted opportunities.
Piazza gave Randolph a large victory cigar at the start of the series, certain he'd light up before he left town. Instead, Randolph had to pack away the cigar -- and his team's place in Mets history -- for a trip to Atlanta.
"Well, I don't make too much of anything," Randolph said. "It's early in the season. We got swept. We go to Atlanta and try to change the pace a little bit. I don't get excited about a few games either way. We've got a long way to go."
Harang topped Ishii, who allowed only two costly hits over 6 2/3 innings. Wily Mo Pena hit a solo homer in the second, and Jimenez's double sparked a three-run rally in the seventh.
Ishii came to the Mets in a March 20 trade with the Dodgers, hoping to shake his habit of working deep into counts and walking a lot of batters. He walked Ryan Freel and Felipe Lopez to open the Reds' first, setting himself up for familiar trouble.
Kaz Matsui, moved from shortstop to second base this season, let Sean Casey's potential double-play grounder get through him for an error that let in a run, and Austin Kearns followed with a sacrifice fly.
Pena got into the lineup for the first time because manager Dave Miley decided to rest Ken Griffey Jr., who had surgery to reattach his right hamstring last August. Pregame rain left the outfield wet.
Pena led off the second inning with a homer, the last hit that Ishii allowed until the seventh. The left-hander got into a flow after the homer, retiring the next 11 batters and fanning five straight during that stretch.
"During the course of the game, I was able to bring out the pitching style I wanted to show after the trade to the Mets," Ishii said through a translator.
Freel received a warm reception from the fans during pregame introductions. Freel, playing for the first time since his drunken driving arrest on Monday night, had an RBI single and two of the four walks off Ishii.
- Randolph played for the Mets in 1992, when they started 2-6.
- Reds OF Adam Dunn struck out three times, raising his three-game total to seven. Dunn set a major-league record by fanning 195 times last season.
- LHP Eric Milton, who won his Reds debut on Wednesday night, will start again on Sunday at Houston, getting only three days between starts. In the other three times he's gone on short rest, Milton was 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA.