CINCINNATI -- When it came to getting freshly activated Reds left-handed reliever Bill Bray back into service from the bullpen, there was no easing him in on Friday night against the Twins.
Manager Dusty Baker ripped the bandage off, so to speak, by calling on Bray to wiggle out of Homer Bailey's bases loaded, one-out jam in the sixth inning. The outcome was one of many painful moments for the Reds during their 5-4 loss to Minnesota that moved their season-high losing streak to four games.
"That's part of his job. We hoped to get him in a less-pressurized situation," Baker said of Bray. "But you didn't want to use [Sean] Marshall that early in the sixth and they had the left-handed hitters coming up there."
As Cincinnati led by a 4-3 score in the top of the sixth, a leadoff single by Ryan Doumit and a one-out single by Jamey Carroll rallied the Twins. Bailey then walked pinch-hitter Joe Mauer to load the bases with his 106th pitch of the game.
Bailey lobbied hard to remain in the game and wasn't happy about leaving.
"It's tough to come out of situations like that," Bailey said. "But Dusty is the manager and he makes the call."
Baker summoned Bray, who has been on the disabled list since April 24 due to groin and back injuries, to face lefty hitter Denard Span. After he began in a 3-0 count, Bray walked Span on a full count to force home the tying run.
Next was Ben Revere, who sent a sacrifice fly to right field that easily scored Carroll from third base with the go-ahead run.
"[Bailey] had a bunch of pitches, especially in the fifth and a bunch of pitches in the sixth," Baker said. "You don't want to get deep, deep, deep in your bullpen in the first game of 17 in a row. We got already deep as it was. We were hoping to get through the sixth and after that, mix and match, and win the game and save our bullpen at the same time."
Bailey took the loss and was charged with five runs, four earned, with eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three.
Twice, the Reds got two-run home runs to take leads. Chris Heisey's shot to left field gave them a 2-0 lead in the first inning. In the fourth, Scott Rolen hit his first long ball since April 26 after returning Monday from the disabled list, and gave Cincinnati a 4-3 lead.
The next batter, Devin Mesoraco, hit a broken-bat groundout to the shortstop. The bat's barrel, however, struck home-plate umpire Jerry Layne in the side of the head. Layne left the game for a local hospital and was replaced behind the plate by second-base umpire Bob Davidson following a 10-minute delay.
"I don't think the change of umpires made any difference," Bailey said.
The Reds had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the sixth before Mesoraco was called out on strikes and pinch-hitter Todd Frazier flied out as the Twins' bullpen retired eight in a row.
Against lefty Glen Perkins in the bottom of the ninth, Rolen led off with a lined single to center field. Pinch-hitter Wilson Valdez's sacrifice bunt moved Rolen to second base. Pinch-hitter Ryan Hanigan's lined single to center field put the tying run on third base and the winning run on first base. But Zack Cozart was called out on strikes and Heisey went down swinging to end the game.
"We fought back and got the lead back and that was huge," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Then our bullpen, we did the best we could with it. Perkins made it real entertaining there at the end, but came up with some pitches and a big win for us."
This was the Reds' third one-run loss in four games. While the other two losses came against a first-place Indians team, the Twins are in the American League Central basement and had lost seven of their last 10 games coming in. And the two hitters who did the most damage -- Revere and Doumit were both 4-for-4 -- came in struggling. Revere entered in an 0-for-15 slump while Doumit, who hit a solo homer in the fourth, was 4-for-his-last-18.
The Reds now have a tenuous hold on first place, with a one-game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central.
"We had big chances," Baker said. "It hurts, because we're piling up these one-run losses in the last week here, games where we had an opportunity if we make a pitch or get a hit."