CINCINNATI -- Hours later, the clubhouse carpet remained damp. The room smelled of beer. Players rolled in late, grins on their faces. And then they returned to the business at hand.
Among the oddities in the Mets' post-clinch lineup Sunday were seven bench players, including out-of-position veterans Kelly Johnson at shortstop and Anthony Recker at first base. For the postseason-bound Mets, it hardly mattered. Their replacement team steamrolled Cincinnati, 8-1, sending the Reds to their eighth straight loss and capping a perfect 7-0 record against them this season.
The win also allowed the Mets to increase their lead over the Dodgers in the race for home-field advantage in the National League Division Series to 1 1/2 games.
"They're feeling it. There is blood in the water right now," Reds manager Bryan Price said of the Mets, who are a combined 28-2 against the NL's three last-place teams. "They've already got their playoff spot. They're facing a team that's scuffling, one that's having a hard time having a chance getting a lead. Even with more of their bench players in the game, they're just riding their high and we're stuck in a low."
Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom sailed through six innings of one-run ball while striking out nine. His outing came in stark contrast to that of Reds starter Keyvius Sampson, who gave up five runs -- three earned -- and could not escape the third inning.
With David Wright, Daniel Murphy and company watching from the dugout bench, a few steps from where they celebrated on Saturday, Dilson Herrera did the most damage with a two-run homer and a 3-for-4 day. Kevin Plawecki also homered, Michael Conforto added an RBI double and even deGrom had his fun, singling home two runs to chase Sampson from the game.
"A lot of those guys want to be on that postseason roster," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I think some of those guys in there today said, 'I'm going to show that I belong.'"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED deGrominant once again: After allowing a leadoff double to Skip Schumaker, deGrom retired 14 consecutive Reds into the fifth. He wound up allowing one run over six innings, striking out nine batters to reach 198 on the season. With an eye toward reaching 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career, deGrom will make one final postseason tuneup start next weekend against the Nationals. He thrived in this one after the Mets skipped his last start. More >
"I don't know necessarily if it was a good thing or not," deGrom said, "but I felt good out there today."
Reds rotation not helping bullpen: By going only 2 2/3 innings and allowing five runs and nine hits, Sampson provided a short start on the heels of John Lamb's two-inning struggle Saturday. In the four-game series vs. New York, Reds starters allowed 20 runs over only 16 innings. During the eight-game losing streak, the rotation has a 6.63 ERA with 27 earned runs over 36 2/3 innings.
"If you're going to have your success, if you're going to shut down streaks of losing multiple games in a row, it always begins with a quality start. It's been a challenge," Price said. "This current run through the rotation has been a real struggle to have the opportunity to jump out and take a lead and to add on."
Dilson does work: Still a significant part of the Mets' future, Herrera took advantage of some rare playing time to go 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, a double, a walk and two runs scored. He will not make the postseason roster, but could be with the Mets next Opening Day.
"He's going to be a good player -- we all know that," Collins said. "The games he's played up here, he's played very well."
Tough day in left field: In the top of the third with the bases loaded and two outs, deGrom lifted a soft line drive to left field. Ivan De Jesus had a bead on it but let it fall in front of him for a two-run single that made it a 5-0 game. In the fifth, deGrom hit a liner to left field that De Jesus dropped for a run-scoring error.
"It's just one of those days. When I did have a good pitch, it got flared over someone's head. I wish I could have gotten deeper in the game for sure. The bullpen has been getting taxed pretty heavily this year. All of us starters want to get six, seven innings if we could." -- Sampson, after the shortest start of his brief big league career. He is 0-5 over his last eight starts.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Mets set a modern-day National League record by scoring three-plus runs in their 31st consecutive road game. No other NL team has done that since 1900.
Joey Votto hit an RBI single in the sixth inning that scored Schumaker to break up the shutout. For Votto, it extended his career-high streak of reaching base safely to 44 consecutive games. That put him one away from Matt Holliday's MLB season-high 45-game streak to start 2015. The Reds' franchise record is 48 games, set by Pete Rose in 1978.
Heading to their last road city of the regular season, the Mets had a little fun with their rookies, making them wear superhero-themed "Underoos" after the game. The rookies then paraded out of Great American Ball Park, into public view, while the team tweeted out multimedia evidence of the ordeal. Making matters worse for Conforto, Plawecki and company? The Mets had a late flight to Philadelphia due to travel restrictions related to the Pope's visit there, giving veterans even more time to poke fun at their rookies.
WHAT'S NEXT Mets: An off-day awaits the Mets on Monday, followed by a three-game series in Philadelphia beginning Tuesday. The Mets will spend the week looking to send their arch-rivals to their first 100-loss season since 1961. Bartolo Colon will kick things off opposite David Buchanan in a 7:05 p.m. ET game.
Reds: To make up a July 8 rainout, the Reds will head to Washington on Monday for a 3:05 p.m. ET game vs. the Nationals on what was originally an off-day. Brandon Finnegan will make his third big league start. Finnegan did not fare well his last time out against the Cardinals on Wednesday, allowing six runs on seven hits, including three homers, over five innings while striking out seven.