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New York — Ike Davis was out of place at first base and looked out of sorts in the batter's box.
The Mets' slumping slugger was called for obstructing a runner rounding first base in a three-run first inning and went hitless in three at-bats for New York during a 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
"The game is really built on momentum and confidence," Davis said, "and I just haven't had a lot of things go right for me for things to take off."
Davis was called for interference in the Reds' three-run first inning. With a runner on first and one out, Joey Votto, the NL player of the week, hit a smash that ricocheted off first base and into right field. As he made his turn at first, Votto nudged Davis, who was nonchalantly standing near the bag, looking into the outfield. Votto was tagged out at second but Davis was charged with an error and Votto was awarded the base.
"I was looking for the ball and I took a couple of steps," Davis said. "That's why I was there longer than I should've been."
Davis slid deeper into his monthlong funk at the plate, going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. He has two hits in his last 36 at-bats — and one RBI in May. His average dipped to .152.
Last season Davis' average didn't rise above .200 for good until July 4, but the Mets were playing well and Davis was never sent to the minors. Manager Terry Collins said things might be different this time because the Mets are struggling offensively, failing to score more than three runs for the 11th time in 14 games.
"Well, certainly we have a lot of discussions about different things and that is something that certainly we have considered as we sit and talk," Collins said. "The fact that we're not playing like we did last year at this particular time now, it's a bigger factor."
Jay Bruce hit a tiebreaking homer off Shaun Marcum (0-5) and drove in two runs to back Johnny Cueto's wild but effective return from the disabled list for Cincinnati.
Brandon Phillips had a two-run single for his first career hit off Marcum in 13 at-bats. Phillips also made two sparkling plays in the field.
Aroldis Chapman, the Reds' fifth reliever, struck out two in a perfect ninth for his ninth save. He had blown his two previous save chances.
Cueto (2-0) started for the first time since leaving his April 13 outing with a back injury. Making his fourth start of the season, the Reds' ace gave up three hits and three runs with eight strikeouts in five innings. But he walked four, including one in the third, when Marlon Byrd touched him for a three-run homer.
After the homer, Cueto struck out four in a row with a fastball that reached the mid-90s (mph).
His counterpart, Marcum, rarely reached 86 mph in pitching at least six innings for the second straight start after failing to finish five in any of his first three starts with the Mets. Still, he remains winless in his first season in New York.
"We've been through this now for what, five starts? I get hit, it's location. I made four or five mistakes today and they all got hit," Marcum said. "Got to limit the mistakes."
Marcum appeared headed for another early exit after a 20-minute top of the first. He walked Shin-Soo Choo leading off. After Votto ended up on second, Phillips followed with a two-run single and Bruce doubled in a run, extending his hitting streak to 11. Marcum struck out Todd Frazier and Xavier Paul, and walked off to mock cheers.
The right-hander changed that by not giving up another hit until Paul singled with two outs in the fourth.
Bruce broke the tie with a line drive into the right-field seats leading off the sixth.
"Woo, that was a missile," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Collins took a chance on putting strikeout-prone Rick Ankiel in the second spot in the order because he was 7 for 16 against Cueto, and Ankiel led off the third with a single. David Wright walked and, after Lucas Duda struck out, Byrd sent a drive to left field for his fourth homer this year.
Byrd came in 6 for 11 against Cueto.
The Mets loaded the bases in the first on two walks and a single by Duda, bringing up Davis.
The scoreboard operator urged fans to cheer on Davis, and many of the 23,038 in attendance made some noise. Davis hit a sharp grounder toward second, but Phillips dived to his right to stop it and then threw out Davis.
Collins and reliever LaTroy Hawkins were ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion after the top of the seventh for disputing a call that Phillips was hit by a pitch. Collins and Hawkins appeared to insist the ball hit the knob of the bat and not Phillips' hand.
■ The Mets signed RHP David Aardsma to a minor league contract. He requested his release from the Miami Marlins organization Wednesday. The former Seattle closer missed all of 2011 and made only one appearance late last season with the Yankees. He will report to Triple-A Las Vegas.