CINCINNATI -- As the Reds have built momentum and a sizeable division lead, many concerns have faded to the background or disappeared entirely. However, a new one could gain traction.
Is Homer Bailey wearing down?
No one from the Reds would come within five zip codes of saying something like that following Thursday's 8-4 loss to the Mets that snapped Cincinnati's five-game win streak and prevented a three-game series sweep.
But after being unbeatable for most of July, Bailey has been mediocre for much of August as he's crossed career highs in both innings and starts. That downward trend continued Thursday over his 5 2/3 innings. He gave up six runs -- four earned -- and eight hits with three walks, six strikeouts and two home runs. He left in the sixth inning trailing by a 6-0 score.
"I feel good out there throwing, and into starts and stuff," Bailey said with an optimistic tone. "I'm not really getting that sore between starts. Physically, I feel great. I have no excuses, just not making pitches as consistently as I need to."
Bailey had a span of five starts in July where he was 4-0 with a 1.43 ERA, and he came out of those starts with a 3.53 ERA overall. In four starts since July 31, he's 1-2 with an 8.24 ERA while allowing 35 hits. It's raised his overall ERA to 4.16 to go along with his 10-8 record.
"He's throwing 93-94 mph. He started out throwing the ball great," Baker said of Bailey when asked about fatigue.
Everything Bailey does the rest of the way is new territory. He has 147 innings pitched, already his career-high mark in the Majors, and well ahead of his 132 innings during an injury-plagued 2011 season. He did reach 202 1/3 innings in 2009, a season split between the Reds and Triple-A. His 24 starts are also a new career high in the big leagues, surpassing last season's 22.
Despite the four-run difference in the final score, it was hardly a robust night for the rest of the Reds behind Bailey, as the team committed three errors.
"Five runs were scored on the three errors by guys that rarely make errors," Baker said.
Cincinnati mustered only one run and four hits against Mets rookie starter Matt Harvey during the 7 2/3 innings of his fifth big league start. Harvey, who threw only 89 pitches, faced five batters with only five pitches in the bottom of the seventh.
"In 162 games, you have games like this," said Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, who committed a fielding error in the ninth that scored a Mets run. "The way we're playing lately, it's odd. We expect to come out here and win every game, and that was pretty sloppy."
It was a scoreless game until the top of the fourth, when Ike Davis led off with a homer to right field on a 2-1 pitch. Then trouble came with two outs in the inning.
Jason Bay reached on an infield single behind second base as Brandon Phillips' desperation throw landed in the Reds' dugout for an error that put Bay on second base. It snapped Phillips' career-best 84-game errorless streak. No. 8 hitter Kelly Shoppach was intentionally walked to bring Harvey to the plate. Harvey responded by taking a hanging breaking ball from Bailey and pounding it for a two-run double to the wall in left-center field.
"It's a tough adjustment to intentionally walk a guy then have to make a pitch down and away," Bailey said. "We left it over the middle, and might as well just set it on a tee for him."
New York added three more runs in the sixth, beginning with a one-out homer on a Bailey first pitch to Bay. Shoppach followed with a slow chopper to third base, reaching on Scott Rolen's fielding error. With one out, Ruben Tejada drove an RBI double off the left-field wall and then scored on Mike Baxter's lined RBI single to right field that made it a six-run game.
"We just made a couple of mistakes, and they capitalized on it. That's about all you can say," Bailey said.
Harvey had total control over the Reds throughout and retired the first 12 batters he faced. His perfect stretch ended when fifth-inning leadoff batter Ryan Ludwick was hit by a pitch. There were two outs in the inning when Cincinnati finally notched its first hit on a Rolen infield single.
Phillips led off the Reds' seventh with a double to the left-field corner and scored on Jay Bruce's one-out double to right field to break up Harvey's shutout bid.
"It was pretty awesome," Harvey said. "I was really happy that I was able to last that long and give the bullpen a chance to rest a little bit."
The Reds scored three in the ninth inning against Mets closer Frank Francisco, a rally started by Ludwick leading off with his 22nd home run of the season on a drive to right field. Nevertheless, first-place Cincinnati's lead in the National League Central dropped to six games.
"We just have to come back and start a new streak tomorrow," Baker said.