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Mets hope to extend streak against Reds

CINCINNATI -- The New York Mets look to continue their dominance of the Cincinnati Reds when they begin a three-game series at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday.

The Mets have won 14 straight games against the Reds dating to a 2-1 loss on Sept. 6, 2014. It is the Reds' longest-ever losing streak against the Mets and Cincinnati's longest against any team since a 16-game skid against the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2001 to 2003.

New York has the highest winning percentage (.516) at Great American Ball Park of any visiting National League team. The ballpark opened in 2003.

However, these are different teams meeting for the first time this season. And both clubs have been struggling.

The Mets (57-73) have lost seven of 11, and they split a doubleheader with the Washington Nationals on Sunday. The Reds (55-76) lost two of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend.

Neither of the Tuesday starting pitchers -- Reds right-hander Sal Romano (3-5, 4.96 ERA) and Mets right-hander Chris Flexen (3-2, 5.79) -- has faced the other team. No batters on either team have faced Romano or Flexen.

Romano is coming off two of his best outings since being inserted into the rotation after the All-Star break. In his past two starts, Romano allowed only three earned runs through 14 innings with five walks and 10 strikeouts.

"Consistency is kind of the next step in getting your feet wet at this level," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

On Tuesday, Romano, one of four rookies in Cincinnati's rotation, will try to become the first Reds pitcher this season to pitch seven innings in three consecutive starts.

Romano will attempt to keep Mets batters in the ballpark. New York leads the NL and ranks fourth in the major leagues in home runs.

Flexen pitched six innings for the first time in his career last Wednesday, allowing two runs on six hits in a 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

"This is, again, another step forward to show that this guy has got a chance to be able to pitch here," Mets manager Terry Collins told NJ.com.

Flexen is 1-1 with an 8.18 ERA in three road starts.

He will have to contend with Reds first baseman Joey Votto for the first time in his career. Votto wore out Pirates pitchers on Sunday, walking five times, once on an 11-pitch plate appearance against right-hander James Taillon. Votto reached base in a season-high 29 straight games before that streak was snapped on Saturday.

The Reds will be watching Romano's innings closely over the next few weeks with the youngster at 102 innings combined over the major leagues and Triple-A. He pitched 156 innings last year.

Price said over the weekend that he would be willing to consider a six-man rotation.

"Maybe one time through the rotation or maybe periodically to get a look at some of the young guys in September," Price said. "There also might be an opportunity to plug somebody in to give everybody an extra days' rest."

The Mets have lost outfielder Yoenis Cespendes for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, but Matt Harvey, who has not pitched since June 14 due to a shoulder ailment, might make his return for the Friday game against the Houston Astros.

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