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CIN@PIT: Simon fans seven over seven innings vs. Bucs

Alfredo Simon's second half has mirrored that of struggling Cincinnati.

The Reds hope Simon will start off strong and remind them of his early-season success when they open a three-game series against Bartolo Colon and the Mets on Friday night at Great American Ball Park.

Simon, who was primarily used as a reliever before this season and was made the fifth starter when Mat Latos was recovering from offseason surgeries, earned his first career All-Star selection with a dominant first half. The right-hander went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA prior to the All-Star break, and Cincinnati entered the second half at 51-44, just 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

But it's been a nightmare since, both for the Reds and for Simon. Cincinnati is 15-30 in the second half and has virtually fallen out of the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, Simon has lasted more than five innings in just three of his nine second-half starts after going six frames or more in 16 of 18 first-half outings. His ERA since the break is 4.62.

In his last start last Saturday, Simon gave up three first-inning runs but nothing else over his remaining six innings in a loss to the Pirates.

"The first inning, I just tried to attack the zone and they jumped on the first pitch. I think that was the thing," Simon said after surrendering a three-run homer to Neil Walker that proved to be the decisive blow in the 3-2 defeat.

"It's kind of the theme to the second part of the season, how he gets out of the gates," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's not typically five or six great innings followed by a tough seventh. The damage is early, and then he's able to recover."

New York will send Colon to the hill opposite Simon. The veteran righty was hit hard in his last outing, allowing six earned runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 frames in a loss to the Phillies last Saturday at Citi Field. The outing sent his ERA from 3.82 to 4.01.

But Colon made that start following a two-week span in which he traveled to his native Dominican Republic twice, the latter trip for his mother's funeral.

"I'm going to cut him a little slack this time," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's some long trips he's had in the last 10 days, back and forth like that. I don't know if he just ran out of gas, but obviously he was getting way too much plate."

Collins and the Mets hope Colon will get back on track against the Reds, an opponent he's had trouble with in his career. Though he's 3-1 in four starts against Cincinnati, his ERA is 4.15. His last start against the Reds was while he was with the A's on Aug. 7, 2013. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits in a 6-5 loss at Great American Ball Park.

Mets: Dice-K, Edgin to return to bullpen this weekend
Mets relievers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Edgin are each targeting returns to New York's bullpen during this weekend's series in Cincinnati.

Both received cortisone injections in their pitching elbows. Edgin hasn't pitched since Aug. 23 due to elbow tendinitis. Collins did not know exactly what the issue was with Matsuzaka's elbow, but it was severe enough that the right-hander hasn't pitched since last Saturday.

In 30 appearances (nine starts) for the Mets this season, Matsuzaka is 3-3 with a 4.21 ERA. Edgin has become a key component of New York's relief corps. The left-hander has posted a 1.40 ERA in 41 appearances (25 2/3 innings) this season.

Right-hander Erik Goeddel and left-hander Dario Alvarez were recalled from the Minors earlier this week to fortify the bullpen while Matsuzaka and Edgin recovered.

Reds: Price gets look at youngsters in Thursday's loss
Price penciled several non-regulars into Cincinnati's starting lineup in Thursday's 9-7 loss to the Orioles, including center fielder Jason Bourgeois, left fielder Donald Lutz, right fielder Yorman Rodriguez, shortstop Jake Elmore and catcher Tucker Barnhart. But he said that wasn't indicative of how he would play the remainder of the season out.

"We just haven't performed to the level we expected," Price said. "I'm sure there is great disappointment in that locker room that we haven't performed better than we have as much as there is in my office, the coaches' office and the owner's and GM's office that we haven't put ourselves in a better position to be able to ride out our 25-man roster.

"As you'll see over the remainder of the month, it's not like this is what our lineup is going to be like the rest of September. It is for today. If we were playing Milwaukee, St. Louis or Pittsburgh, this would not be our lineup."

Worth noting
• The Mets took two out of three games from the Reds in New York from April 4-6.

• The Reds have scored 526 runs this season, averaging 3.8 runs per game. They are on pace to score 609 runs in 2014, which would be their fewest in a 162-game season since they scored 545 in 1982.

• Ramon Santiago is 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, a triple and three RBIs in his career against Colon.

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