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05/22/08 2:01 AM ET
Reds' LA struggles continue in loss
Cueto's high pitch count, miscues costly against Dodgers
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Gusty winds Wednesday night had flags whipping, palm trees bending and light towers swaying. About the only thing that didn't shift in the breeze were the Reds' fortunes at Dodger Stadium. A sloppy 5-2 loss to the Dodgers meant Cincinnati was dealt a three-game sweep to start its seven-game West Coast swing. That made it three full seasons since the Reds won a game in Los Angeles. Since the last victory in Chavez Ravine on July 28, 2005, they've gone 0-9. Meanwhile, the team has changed owners once, general managers twice and managers three times. Only eight of the current 25 players on the roster were around when Cincinnati last departed the ballpark winners. Second baseman Brandon Phillips, who doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the fourth, doesn't buy any kind of L.A. curse. "A lot of people keep saying that. It's just in our heads, that's how I feel," Phillips said. "We tried our hardest out here and just didn't get breaks. There's no excuse why we don't win out here. We're a better team than the Dodgers, but they just outplayed us. If we haven't won here, then obviously they're doing something we're not doing. "We should have won the first game. The second game, I'll give it to them. But today and the first game, we should have won. That's just real talk. But hey, they found a way to win. We're better than that." The Dodgers didn't find a way Wednesday, as much as the Reds showed them the way. Six of the game's seven runs scored without the benefit of an RBI hit, and Reds miscues bit them back hard. Reds starter Johnny Cueto (2-5) hurt himself by running up a high pitch count. Finishing with 114 pitches in only five innings, Cueto allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Cueto threw 47 pitches through two innings, 71 through three and 96 through four innings. On the other side, Hiroki Kuroda (2-3) worked eight strong innings and used 99 pitches to end an eight-game winless streak since April 4. "He wasn't sharp tonight," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Cueto. "They were fouling off some balls. They got some little bleeders in there. But they capitalized on our mistakes, which wasn't that hard because our mistakes were with runners on third base." In the Dodgers' second, James Loney scored from third on Cueto's wild pitch. With one out, Matt Kemp scored on Chin-lung Hu's suicide squeeze that was scored a fielder's choice. In the fourth with the game tied at 2, Phillips made a nice diving stop to his left on Blake DeWitt's grounder between first and second base. Phillips' throw from the ground pulled first baseman Joey Votto off the bag. On the next play, the wind carried Hu's popup over Phillips' head for a single to center field after a diving attempt. With this wind, there were no routine popups. "It was like the Candlestick days [in San Francisco]," Baker said. "I played here for years and I never saw the wind like that." The bases were loaded with two outs when Cueto's first pitch to Russell Martin zipped high and off catcher Paul Bako's glove for a passed ball that scored the go-ahead run. In the fifth with runners on the corners and two outs, Cueto's pickoff throw to first base went into the seats for an error that scored Kemp and made it 4-2. "We gave them three runs," Baker said. "When you're not scoring runs, you can't give away runs. Those three runs were the difference in the ballgame." Cueto often appeared frustrated with himself on and near the mound. The 22-year-old rookie right-hander has won only two of his last nine starts and hasn't made it beyond six innings in his last five. "He is young. He is very determined, very competitive and that's what drives him," Baker said. "He's going to have to learn to channel it. You don't want to take that emotion away from him. It's going to come in time. He wants to win so very badly." As do the Reds, who are 9-22 on the West Coast since 2006, but they gave away too many outs this week. In Monday's 6-5 loss, two throwing errors at shortstop led to three runs -- including the go-ahead run in the bottom of the ninth. Cincinnati scored only three runs over the final two games. "We gave runs away in this series, period," Baker said. "This is the big leagues. You can't give away runs in the big leagues because it will cost you."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.