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Yohan Ramirez allows 5 runs in inning in Mets’ loss to Reds

CINCINNATI — Only eight games into the season and the Mets are already in a tough spot with the bullpen. With a handful of relievers unavailable to pitch Saturday afternoon at Great American Ballpark, they needed Jake Diekman and Yohan Ramirez to eat some serious innings and protect a three-run lead.

Diekman gave up two runs and Ramirez (0-1) was tagged for five, three of which came off the bat of Spencer Steer in a disastrous eighth inning. Steer’s go-ahead bomb helped the Cincinnati Reds overtake the Mets in a 9-6 loss in the second game of the series.

“We had five guys down in the ‘pen, so going into the game, it was going to be [right-handed starter Luis Severin] for as long as we could ride him,” said manager Carlos Mendoza. “And then it was a combination of Diekman, Ramirez and [Jorge] Lopez because everybody else was down.”

The Mets (2-6) want to avoid using relievers on more than two consecutive nights. After a doubleheader Thursday and a narrow win Friday, the entire high-leverage group was deemed unavailable. Severino allowed two runs (one earned) over five innings, leaving a lot of ground for a handful of relievers to make up. Lopez was only available in a save situation.

With five more games before an off day, it’s not going to get any easier until next week.

Plus, teams have done their homework on the Mets and they’re running on them every chance they get. The Mets have allowed 13 stolen bases and haven’t thrown out a single runner, a frustrating number considering how much emphasis the club put on run prevention this winter and how much work the Mets did to control the running game this spring.

The Reds (5-3) stole three bags Saturday against catcher Omar Narvaez.

“We will continue to work on it,” Mendoza said. “Coming into this series, we knew this was an elite team speed-wise. We knew they were going to be doing a lot of these things like double steals, whether it’s first and second or first and third. We’ve just got to continue to work on it — to hold the ball, continue to do quick steps and we can shut it down.”

The Reds (5-3) took a 2-0 lead in a strange second inning. There was a ball hit to left field by Jeimer Candelario that got lost in the sun and caused Tyrone Taylor to slip on the warning track dirt. Another ball by Elly De La Cruz hopped past Jeff McNeil at second base to score Candelario. With the bases loaded and two out, Severino walked in a run.

He struck out Will Benson to end the inning and limit the damage on the scoreboard, but Cincinnati had already done plenty of damage to his pitch count.

“He gave us five innings and an opportunity to win again,” Mendoza said.

The Mets used a two-out rally in the fourth to move ahead 4-2. Narvaez (3-for-4 with two RBI) and Brandon Nimmo (2-for-4 with a two-run double) each drove in two runs and Tyrone Taylor’s RBI double in the fifth made it 5-2. All five runs came against right-hander Nick Martinez.

But then came the Reds once again.

Diekman got two quick outs before running into trouble. He walked De La Cruz, hit Steer and gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Stuart Fairchild. With Fairchild on first and Steer on third, the Reds executed a double steal with Steer coming home to make it 5-4.

Narvaez was going to fake a throw and check the runner, but he was already in motion and threw to second, allowing Steer to come home easily.

“For a second I thought I would pump-fake,” Narvaez said. “I had a little thought to not throw to second, but I was already in motion.”

And then came the eighth inning.

There was a walk, a balk and a wild pitch. De La Cruz checked his swing and squibbed a single right between Brett Baty and Francisco Lindor to score Bubba Thompson and tie the game.

Steer got a belt-high sinker from Ramirez and put it into the seats in left-center field.

“I felt pretty fresh leading up to today and I knew what the situation was,” Ramirez said. “Mentally and physically I was ready to go in and really do whatever the team needed me to do.”

The Reds weren’t done after that. Ramirez was left in the game and allowed the next three batters to reach before getting an out. A fly ball scored another run, leaving the Mets to try to score five runs against Alexis Diaz, the brother of closer Edwin Diaz.

The Mets plated one but would get no further.

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