CIN@NYM: Ankiel's RBI triple draws Mets even late

NEW YORK -- This was a new beginning for Rick Ankiel. A chance to start over with a new team after getting off to a rough start to the season with the Houston Astros. In nine games with the Mets, Ankiel has brought some offensive stability to a lineup struggling to string hits together and put runs on the board.

"It's a new opportunity, and it's exciting," Ankiel said. "You're getting a chance to play on the New York stage. We're not playing as well as we want to, but you're still playing one of the country's biggest stages, so it's exciting."

In Wednesday's 7-4 loss to the Reds, Ankiel went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs. Since joining the Mets on May 13, four days after being waived by the Astros, Ankiel is hitting .323 with two home runs and six RBIs. What began as a signing based on hope has become beneficial for both sides.

While Ankiel's gotten a new start, New York has gotten a consistent hitter at several spots in the lineup. Ankiel has batted seventh five times, fifth once and second twice, including on Wednesday.

Mets manager Terry Collins said Ankiel's been important for the team, especially in games like Wednesday's. His game-tying triple in the seventh inning kept the Mets in position to potentially win the game.

"When you're a veteran guy and you've gotten off to a slow start to the season, here's a chance to regroup, and he has," Collins said. "So far, he's been a plus at the plate. We're not in the game without him today."

Ankiel hit just .194 in 25 games with Houston. But with his seven home runs this season, he adds some power to New York's lineup.

Mets third baseman David Wright said Ankiel -- famously a former pitcher -- has provided the team with a strong arm in center, but his production at the plate is where Ankiel has provided the most value.

"I guess it's easy to overlook individual performances when the team's struggling as bad as it is. He's definitely been a shot in the arm for us," Wright said. "And then offensively, he's been nothing short of fantastic. He has this, I guess, you hear about how he's a free swinger, but he's had great at-bats for us.

"All in all, he's been fantastic."

Workhorse Rice mindful of getting enough rest

CIN@NYM: Rice fans two in scorless inning of relief

NEW YORK -- Just because Mets manager Terry Collins has used Scott Rice out of the bullpen seemingly without discretion, it does not mean he is deaf to the limitations of muscles and tendons. Collins approached Rice earlier this season with a message: "Heroes die fast here."

"If you want to go out there, and you think you're hurt and you're going to try to get through it because you're going to be a tough guy, your career in the big leagues is going to be cut short," Collins said. "So be honest with us."

The situation is tricky with Rice, who toiled in professional baseball for 14 years before receiving his first shot at the Majors. Desperate to stay in the big leagues, Rice may be more susceptible to taking the ball at less than 100 percent than a pitcher with better job security.

But he also understands that he cannot pitch every day -- despite entering Wednesday's game against the Reds on pace for a franchise-record 98 appearances.

"Coming up through the Minor Leagues, it's the same deal," Rice said. "It's a fine line between being smart and preparing yourself. My whole thing with it is, if I can get myself ready to throw and help the team win a game, I'm going to do that every day."

Rice, whose current run of four straight scoreless appearances has lowered his ERA to 2.91, said he is usually most sore two days after an outing. He believes his arm responds best to throwing every day, which prevents him from experiencing that soreness.

Thankfully, Rice said, he has not endured any notable arm trouble this season.

"I think that's why I've been successful as a reliever more so than as a starter," Rice said. "I've always had that ability to recover quickly."

Mets aim to improve everywhere -- not just Citi

PIT@NYM: Baxter bloops a game-tying single into left

NEW YORK -- With their 4-0 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday night, the Mets fell to 2-10 in their past 12 home games going back to April 25. Obviously, few of their recent struggles have been alleviated when playing on their own field.

But it might not have anything to do with the Mets trying too hard in front of their own fans. Rather, they might be trying too hard in general. New York is 9-14 at home, 8-12 on the road.

"I think generally speaking, I think, especially offensively, the last few weeks we've been trying to do too much," outfielder Mike Baxter said. "I don't think it's specific to home and away."

The Mets' offense has struggled, and the team hasn't taken advantage of the comfort of playing at home to turn that around. The Mets have scored three runs or fewer in nine consecutive home games, and that holds true for 14 of 23 total games at Citi Field.

First baseman Ike Davis has struggled the most. Entering Wednesday's game, he had just one hit in his past 36 at-bats. Baxter, who entered with a .222 average and is 1-for-17 over the past eight games, said the offense simply needs to get better for the team to string some wins together.

So while the Mets would certainly like to turn Citi Field into more of a home-field advantage, their first priority is getting some more runs on the board, regardless of where they're playing.

"You always want to take care of business at home," Baxter said. "You want to take advantage of your home games. But overall, it's something we need to do regardless of venue. We need to play better baseball."

Worth noting

• Major League Baseball has denied the Mets' appeal to make one of Matt Harvey's runs unearned in his start against the Cubs last Friday. The league did not accept the Mets' argument that Ruben Tejada's throwing error in the first inning should have resulted in an unearned run. As a result, Harvey entered Wednesday's start with a 1.55 ERA.

• The Mets announced that they will host Fireworks Night at Citi Field following the conclusion of Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Braves. Tickets start at $12 and are available at mets.com.