NEW YORK — Any time a starting pitcher steps into the batter's box before he stands on the mound, he's in pretty good shape. Mike Leake enjoyed that luxury Tuesday night.
Leake pitched three-hit ball for seven sharp innings and the Cincinnati Reds parlayed star third baseman David Wright's early error into a 4-0 victory over the New York Mets.
Leake, one of the majors' best-hitting pitchers, struck out to end the top of the first inning. The Reds already led 3-0 by then, scoring all those runs after Wright let a bases-loaded, two-out grounder skip through his legs.
"It always helps a little bit," Leake said. "It helps you relax a little bit. It lets you attack hitters, instead of being timid."
Devin Mesoraco homered as the Reds won for the ninth time in 11 games. And for the second straight day, they opened a 3-0 lead over the Mets in the opening inning.
Leake (4-2) struck out four, walked two and became the latest pitcher to shut down the Mets at Citi Field. New York has lost 10 of 12 at home, rarely scoring many runs.
Leake escaped his biggest jam by retiring slumping Ike Davis on a grounder with runners on second and third to end the fourth.
"Everything was seeming to work," Leake said.
The 25-year-old righty has never pitched a shutout in the majors, and was pulled for reliever Sam LeCure to begin the eighth.
LeCure and Logan Ondrusek each threw a hitless inning to finish up.
Jonathon Niese (3-5) wasn't charged with an earned run, but he hurt himself with continuing control troubles. He walked three, all on full counts in the first inning.
Niese set down the first two batters of the night before Joey Votto walked, Brandon Phillips looped a single and Jay Bruce walked.
Todd Frazier followed with a hard grounder right at Wright, and the ball bounced under his glove and let two runs score. Earlier this season, Wright ran his errorless streak to 77 games, a team record for third basemen.
"That ball was scorched," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I know they called it an error, but whatever happened to the old 'too hot to handle?'"
Either way, the Reds were on their way.
"It was hit sharply and just got a tricky in-between hop," Wright said. "I looked at the replay and trying to learn what I could have done differently and really couldn't do much."
"Just wish the ball would have found the glove because Jon Niese settled in and was fantastic those next five innings and really did a nice job saving the bullpen. So I wish I could have made that one," he said. "When things aren't going so great, one play like that can cost you a game and it did today."
Donald Lutz then beat out an infield hit that reloaded the bases and Mesoraco drew another walk that forced home a run. Niese struck out Leake to end an inning in which he threw 48 pitches, and walked off the mound holding the glove in his throwing hand.
"That's what you want to do — jump 'em early," Baker said. "Break the spirit of the opposing pitcher. A lot times, they think they're throwing good in the bullpen and then, 'What happened?'"
Mesoraco hit reliever Collin McHugh's first pitch in the ninth for his second home run.
Votto extended his hitting streak to 10 games while Bruce's string ended at 11.
NOTES: Reds SS Zack Cozart returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a stomach illness. ... Reds CF Shin-Soo Choo got a day off. ... Mets ace RHP Matt Harvey (5-0, 1.55 ERA) starts Wednesday afternoon vs. RHP Mat Latos (4-0, 2.91). ... The win made the Reds 146-145 all-time when visiting the Mets, including games at the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and Citi Field. ... Niese struck out seven. He has walked 27 and fanned 31 this season. ... The Mets have scored three runs or less in nine straight home games. ... The Reds improved to 12-12 on the road this year.