CINCINNATI -- The resurgence of Barry Zito continued Wednesday night, but the Giants' inability to come up with key hits with runners in scoring position came back to haunt them in a 4-2 loss against the Reds at soggy Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati rallied with four runs in the seventh inning, three of them unearned, to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and beat San Francisco for the seventh straight time at home.
It was the second night in a row the Reds got big run production in the seventh inning. Unlike Tuesday, when Cincinnati scored six times to blow open a close game, Wednesday's outburst spoiled another solid start by Zito. Zito allowed just five hits and one run over six-plus innings with his third quality start in four outings this season but left after giving up a solo home run to Cincinnati third baseman Scott Rolen on a full count to lead off the seventh inning.
Relievers Clay Hensley and Jeremy Affeldt couldn't hold the lead, however, with Hensley's throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt and an Affeldt wild pitch contributing to the Reds' comeback.
"Our defense hurt us again," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We gave them too many outs in that inning."
Hensley's error came on a bunt by Ryan Hanigan following a single to left by Ryan Ludwick. With runners on second and third, Hensley got pinch-hitter Willie Harris to pop out to shortstop Brandon Crawford but walked Drew Stubbs to load the bases. Wilson Valdez hit a fly ball to right field and Ludwick scored to even the game, 2-2. Bochy appealed the play at third, believing Ludwick left early, but umpire Vic Carapazza ruled Ludwick safe.
Affeldt replaced Hensley but threw a wild pitch while facing Joey Votto that allowed Hanigan to score from third base, where he had advanced on right fielder Nate Schierholtz's errant throw home on the sacrifice fly. Votto doubled to score Stubbs.
"I just slipped. The ball was wet. It was the perfect storm," said Hensley. "The worst part about it is I felt I made my pitches, and if I don't throw that ball away, we're out of the inning. It's almost a little more frustrating whenever something like that happens and you're not getting beat around and it's kind of like all on me."
Hensley took the loss to fall to 1-2 on the season, while Cincinnati reliever Jose Arredondo pitched a perfect seventh inning to earn his second win without a loss. Arredondo was one of four Cincinnati relievers who each pitched a scoreless inning.
The Giants threatened in the eighth inning against Cincinnati lefty Aroldis Chapman, but Joaquin Arias' line drive up the middle was snared by Chapman to leave runners on first and second. Shawn Marshall pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his fourth save.
Zito retired 12 straight Reds at one point, including putting them down in order in the second, third and fourth innings. The Reds got two-out hits from Hanigan and Todd Frazier in the fifth inning, but Zito got out of the inning when Stubbs flied out to left field on the first pitch he saw.
"I settled into a rhythm and then I just didn't make that pitch on Rolen," said Zito, whose ERA dropped to 1.67 in 27 innings. "That's one I want back because that changed the whole inning. We go to the bullpen and ask them for nine outs instead of possibly six outs if I can get through that seventh. I think that was the deciding situation there. It just shows you how quick this game spirals."
Despite the reputation of Great American Ball Park as a hitters' haven, the Giants have had their struggles scoring runs here. They have now scored just six runs in their last 41 innings in Cincinnati.
Angel Pagan hit a solo home run onto the grass in center field after Bronson Arroyo had retired the first two batters of the third inning. Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval followed with singles to right, but the Giants could not push across any more runs.
"There's a lot of lefties in that lineup and they battled me hard," said Arroyo. "It makes it much tougher on me and takes away part of my weapons. I had runners on base and was just lucky to get out of those innings to give us an opportunity to keep us in the ballgame. If we go down 4-0, it's probably a wrap."
The Giants added an unearned run in the fourth inning when catcher Hector Sanchez beat the throw of Stubbs to the plate on a single by Crawford to center field. Stubbs was charged with an error when he initially bobbled the ball, allowing Sanchez the room he needed to slide home safely.
The Giants left seven runners on base through the first five innings against Arroyo, who allowed nine hits before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. Overall they went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and are hitting just .155 in those situations over the last 10 games.
"We had opportunities to cash in tonight and we didn't do it," said Bochy. "In this ballpark, you're living on the edge with only two runs. We just couldn't add on. Their bullpen did a great job on us. We had some guys out there, but we couldn't get another hit to add on and give us a bigger cushion."
Rain fell before the game, forcing the grounds crew to pull the tarp over the field, but Arroyo's first pitch was on time. The rain continued through the fifth inning before ending.
Kevin Goheen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.