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06/19/08 6:10 PM ET
Rally stalls, Reds drop fifth straight
Cincinnati ends nine-game homestand with 2-7 mark
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- The Reds haven't been very good on the road. Now they're struggling at home, too. The last thing the Reds needed before hitting the road for another long trip was the homestand performance they just completed. A 7-4 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon wasn't as close as score indicated. Cincinnati starter Aaron Harang didn't have it, and Los Angeles had a 6-0 lead through six innings. Finishing the nine-game homestand at 2-7, Cincinnati lost a season-high five home games in a row. "It was a rough homestand," said rookie right fielder Jay Bruce, who was given the first ejection of his Major League career in the ninth inning. "Hopefully, we start a streak on the road." That could be a very tall order. The Reds, who are 12-24 on the road this season compared to 21-17 at home, are headed on a 10-day, nine-game journey that begins with three games at Yankee Stadium. The series in the Bronx comes just as the underperforming Yankees have finally ignited. New York has won seven in a row. Sub-.500 teams Toronto and Cleveland follow, but the Reds haven't played well against losing teams this year. "We have to figure out what's going on," Harang said. "Just get out of it one thing at a time. Hopefully this road trip will change that." Harang gave up five earned runs and 10 hits over five innings with three walks and two strikeouts, to fall to 3-10. Only Barry Zito, with 11 losses, has more defeats in the Majors. Back-to-back two-out doubles in the first inning by Jeff Kent and Russell Martin immediately put Harang and the Reds in a 1-0 hole. "After we got into that hole, 1-0, I started pressing a lot more and tried to do too much," said Harang, who is 1-4 with a 7.20 ERA over his past five starts. His 119 hits allowed this season lead the National League. In the fourth, Matt Kemp led off with a home run to right field. After a pair of one-out singles by the eighth and ninth spots in the order, Juan Pierre's bunt base hit scored Angel Berroa from third base. It was a 5-0 game after five innings, as Kemp drove in two more runs with a double to center field for a three-RBI day. Harang was lifted following the fifth with 107 pitches thrown, which was a lot for the normally efficient right-hander. "He just got some balls up," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He had guys set up for balls inside, and he was missing in there and they came back over the plate. They were hitting him back up the middle. You could tell today they had a philosophy on how to hit him." Dodgers lefty Eric Stults was 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas, but he buried the Reds for six innings in his first big league start of the season. Stults (1-0) pitched six-plus innings and didn't allow any runs until the seventh. The Reds' 0-for-20 skid with runners in scoring position finally ended in the seventh, but not with a bang, as Dodgers mistakes opened the door. A runner was on first when Joey Votto's routine grounder went through Kent's legs for an error that put runners on the corners with no outs. Then Paul Bako's hard grounder hit diving first baseman James Loney's glove and skipped off of Votto. Edwin Encarnacion scored, and the play was ruled an RBI infield single. The bases were loaded with one out when Norris Hopper push-bunted to the first-base side and scored Votto from third base. With two outs, Brandon Phillips' seeing-eye single scored a pair. Typical of the series, and the homestand, there were no big hits, and the Reds left the bases loaded in the seventh. During the past nine games, they were 6-for-57 (.105) with runners in scoring position and batted .188 (54-for-287) overall with 21 runs scored (2.3 runs per game). "We had the opportunity to tie the game or take the lead, finally," Baker said. "That hit eluded us all week." Maybe in fitting fashion, Bruce was ejected by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson in the ninth after he was called out on strikes for the second out. As closer Takashi Saito had a long pause before his delivery, Bruce called time out and Davidson wouldn't grant it. Bruce wasn't ready when the pitch came in. After a brief outburst, he was run by Davidson. "I thought I called time, really, when I had my hand off the bat," said Bruce, who was 1-for-5 in the game and 6-for-33 (.182) on the homestand. "He didn't think I called it early enough. We obviously disagreed. I said some stuff I shouldn't have said." "He's frustrated," Baker said. "We're all frustrated."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.