CINCINNATI — Skipping a start did wonders for Jacob deGrom.
DeGrom pitched six sharp innings in his first outing since Sept. 15 and the New York Mets, playing a makeshift lineup a day after clinching the NL East title, finished off a season sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with an 8-1 victory Sunday.
DeGrom (14-8) gave up one run and five hits, striking out nine without a walk. He also got two hits and drove in two runs.
"I felt good today," he said. "I don't know (if skipping a start) was a good thing or not. Today my changeup was really good. It's a pitch I used a lot last year, but I kind of got away from it."
Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki hit rare home runs as the Mets enjoyed their first full day as division champions. At 89-67, New York is trying to stay ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers (87-67) for homefield advantage in their likely Division Series matchup.
Despite giving all of their regulars the day off, the Mets completed the first season sweep by either team since New York started play in 1962, going 7-0 against Cincinnati. The Mets outscored the Reds 36-12 in these four games at Great American Ball Park and extended their franchise-record road winning streak to 11.
Keyvius Sampson (2-6) lost his fifth straight start, allowing five runs — three earned — and nine hits in 2 2-3 innings. Last-place Cincinnati has lost eight in a row, one shy of its season high.
"If you're going to have success or stop a losing streak, it begins with a quality start," manager Bryan Price said. "Sampson had some elevation mistakes, but the Mets are feeling it right now. Even though they started all bench players, they are riding a high, and they're playing a team that's struggling and not playing very well. There's blood in the water."
Herrera's two-run homer in the second was his third of the season and first in 38 at bats since June 14. Plawecki's solo shot in the sixth was his third of the season and first in 164 at bats since May 16.
Herrera added a double and a single, leading a group of Mets bench players who seemed intent on squeezing into New York's post-season plans. Manager Terry Collins wasn't sure how many more chances they would get as New York chases home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We know Herrera is going to be a good player," Collins said. "Every time he's played up here, he's played well."
DeGrom retired 14 straight batters between Skip Schumaker's first inning, leadoff double, which glanced off the glove of left fielder Michael Conforto, and Eugenio Suarez's two-out single in the fifth.
Consecutive singles by Schumaker, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Joey Votto broke up deGrom's shutout bid in the sixth. Votto has reached base at least once in 44 consecutive games.
New York scored a pair of unearned runs in the fifth when De Jesus Jr. dropped deGrom's routine fly ball to left field.
Mets: After making 29 starts this season, RHP Jonathon Niese will work out of the bullpen. "There was a need out there at the end of the season," said Niese, who volunteered to make the move. "I just want to help the team."
Reds: INF/OF Kristopher Negron, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury on Sept. was transferred to the 60-day DL when Cincinnati claimed OF Tyler Holt off waivers from Cleveland.
Mets: After getting Monday off, the reshuffled Mets' rotation has RHP Bartolo Colon (14-12) starting the first game of a three-game series in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Colon is 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA in four September starts.
Reds: Cincinnati travels to Washington for the makeup of a game postponed on July 8 by the possibility of a storm that never developed. LHP Brandon Finnegan (1-1) will make his third career big league start.