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Romano right at home as Reds visit Mets

NEW YORK -- Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Sal Romano will get to find out Sunday how he fares in the closest thing he's experienced yet to a homecoming start.

The New York Mets will hope a return to comfortable afternoon surroundings allows ace Jacob deGrom to snap out of his recent slump.

The Mets conclude a seven-game homestand Sunday afternoon when they try to complete a four-game sweep of the Reds in the series finale at Citi Field.

Romano (4-6, 4.62 ERA) is scheduled to oppose deGrom (14-9, 3.65) in a battle of right-handers.

The Mets earned a 6-1 win Saturday. New York (64-79) has outscored the Reds (61-82) by a combined 18-4 in the first three games.

Romano's 14th major league start will be his first in his native northeast. The 23-year-old was born about half an hour east of Citi Field in Syosset, N.Y., and grew up in Southington, Conn., located about two hours north of the stadium.

It's not unusual for major leaguers to struggle because they're overly excited upon playing in front of family and friends for the first time.

Reds manager Bryan Price said Saturday, though, he hopes Romano learned from being too revved up for his major league debut April 16, when Romano took the loss after giving up three runs (two earned) over a career-low three innings as the Reds fell to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2.

"His first start in the big leagues, he was over-amped, and it didn't pay dividends," Price said. "I think that experience should set him up to be on better footing for (Sunday's) start."

Romano has been on solid footing over his last four starts, though he took the loss the last time he pitched Sept. 3 after giving up two runs (one earned) over 5 2/3 innings as the Reds fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1.

It was the fourth straight start in which Romano pitched at least into the sixth inning and allowed three runs or fewer, a stretch in which he is 2-1 with a 2.46 ERA to lower his overall ERA from 6.05 to 4.62.

DeGrom, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. He took the loss Tuesday after giving up nine runs (six earned) over 3 2/3 innings as the Mets fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 9-1. The nine runs allowed were a career high for deGrom, who pitched fewer than four innings for only the fourth time in 104 major league starts.

DeGrom has allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts, a span in which he is 1-4 with a 5.81 ERA as his overall ERA has risen from 3.21 to 3.65. While deGrom is nearing career highs in starts and innings pitched -- he is two starts and nine innings away from setting new standards in those categories -- manager Terry Collins doesn't think late-season fatigue is to blame for his recent struggles.

"That's always a possibility this time of year," Collins said. "We've had enough conversations with him. That has not been an issue. That has not been a subject that has popped up."

The good news for deGrom and the Mets is he thrives during day games. He is 17-7 with a 1.94 ERA in 36 afternoon starts.

Romano won his lone previous start against the Mets on Aug. 29, when he surrendered three runs over six innings in the Reds' 14-4 victory at Great American Ball Park. DeGrom is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Reds.

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