NEW YORK (AP) As the New York Mets try to put this lost season behind them and look ahead to next year, Rafael Montero, Kevin Plawecki and a handful of other youngsters are benefiting from their opportunities in the majors.
Montero overcame five walks to win his third straight start, Plawecki hit a two-run homer and the Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-1 on Saturday night.
''Even though we sit where we sit as far as records go, like I said before the game, some of these guys are playing for something,'' manager Terry Collins said. ''They know all eyes are on them and the better they play, the better chances in spring that they're certainly going to have to make this club.''
After losing five of six, the Mets have won four straight for the first time since July 19-22.
Cincinnati's third consecutive defeat ensured its fourth losing season in a row and 14th in 17 years.
Montero (5-9) was lifted with a 2-1 lead after throwing 97 pitches. He gave up four hits and weaved in and out of trouble for five innings. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his last six starts, crediting the work he did on his changeup during the offseason in the Dominican Republic.
''I think it's the first time here in the big leagues that I've won three games like that consecutively,'' Montero said through a translator.
Chasen Bradford, Josh Smoker, Jeurys Familia and Jamie Callahan combined to throw four innings of hitless relief for New York.
When catcher Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 19, Plawecki was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas. He produced that same night in Montero's win with a two-run homer. And once again on Saturday, Plawecki backed his batterymate. His two-out homer to left field in the second off Homer Bailey (4-8) put the Mets ahead.
Since his return to the majors, Plawecki is hitting .302 with four doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in 13 games while sharing time with Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate.
''Just seeing the ball and hitting it. Just doing what I've been doing,'' said Plawecki, who was batting .125 when he was demoted May 25. ''The past couple of years where I've had success, (I was) not overthinking it. I think early on when I first got up here, I maybe got a little passive with things.''
Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the second on Scott Schebler's sacrifice fly, but Montero limited the damage by escaping a bases-loaded jam.
The Reds have been outscored 18-4 during the first three games of this four-game set. They left nine runners on base Saturday night.
''We swung the bats really well,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''I thought the first game we didn't have much to show for it, but since then we haven't done much offensively or pitching-wise.''
Montero faced another jam in the third before striking out Schebler looking with runners on first and second to end the threat.
The Reds once again threatened in the fourth, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Montero wiggled out of trouble by getting All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart to fly out to the warning track.
The Mets increased the lead to 3-1 on rookie Dominic Smith's two-out RBI single in the sixth.
The following inning, New York chased Bailey after the right-hander hit Matt Reynolds with a pitch and walked pitcher Jacob deGrom, who was pinch-hitting.
Nori Aoki's two-run single off Michael Lorenzen made it 5-1, and Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI double increased it to 6-1. Schebler prevented further damage with a diving catch in center.
Bailey allowed five runs and six hits in six-plus innings.
''I've got nothing for you,'' he said. ''It just hasn't been working out during the seventh, and (I've) got to figure out a way how to do it.''
Mets players and coaches wore first responder caps during pregame warmups and will do so again Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mets rookie Phillip Evans got his first major league hit with a pinch-hit double in the fifth. Evans debuted Friday and lined out in his first at-bat.
Reds: RF Jesse Winker (strained left hip flexor) ran the bases. The 24-year-old Winker, who got injured Aug. 24 while running out a grounder, was hitting .310 since his promotion to the majors Aug. 1.
Mets: Rookie SS Amed Rosario (bruised right index finger) did not start but played for the first time in six game. He pinch-ran for deGrom in the seventh and scored a run. The 22-year-old Rosario is expected to start Sunday. ... RHP Noah Syndergaard (torn right lat muscle) will throw 50 pitches in a simulated game Sunday.
Reds: RHP Sal Romano (4-6, 4.62 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday. Romano, who is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last four starts, got the win Aug. 29 against New York, allowing three runs in six innings.
Mets: On the mound is deGrom (14-9, 3.65), looking to surpass his career high for wins set in 2015. The Mets' ace is coming off a poor start Tuesday against Philadelphia in which he lasted a season-low 3 2/3 innings and gave up a career-high nine runs, six earned, in the loss.
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