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08/09/08 12:03 AM ET

Reds fall to Astros, drop fourth straight

Seesaw game boils down to battle of the bullpens

CINCINNATI -- Corey Patterson had no more to give. He was running all out, heading deep into the alley in right-center as he tried to track down a drive that had the outcome of the game attached to it. But he needed a little more than he had to give to make this catch.

And when Patterson didn't make the catch, when the ball fell hard into the alley, the hopes of a Reds win fell with it.

"It would have been a nice play," Patterson said.

No doubt it would have been a nice play, too. Instead it was just another missed opportunity in a ballgame that the Reds went on to lose on Friday night, 9-5, to the Astros in 10 innings at Great American Ball Park.

In a game that had the kinds of twists and turns found on a road through the Rockies, the turns that mattered most twisted the wrong way for the Reds, who lost their fourth straight game and seventh in eight since the Ken Griffey Jr. trade last week.

Take the ball that just eluded Patterson, the speedy center fielder. With runners on first and second and slugger Carlos Lee at the plate in the 10th, Patterson was playing in. He was hoping, as he put it, "to stop the bleeding."

But he might not have had any bleeding to stop had closer Francisco Cordero not constructed a scoring opportunity for the Astros after two men were out. Cordero served up a double to Miguel Tejada, then walked Lance Berkman.

The walk to Berkman brought the last thing manager Dusty Baker wanted to see -- Lee strolling to the batter's box with a bat in his hand.

"That man sure knows how to drive in runs," Baker said.

Lee had driven in a run when he homered in the first -- the second solo homer in the inning off starter Johnny Cueto -- to stake the Astros to a 2-0 lead.

But that lead was long since forgotten by the time Lee came up to face Cordero. At that point the two teams had exchanged leads until the Reds tied the game at 5 on Jeff Keppinger's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.

From there the game turned into a battle of bullpens. The Reds lost that battle -- and the ballgame -- when Cordero (4-4, 3.93 ERA), the third reliever used by Baker, put Lee in a position to knock in runs. He didn't waste that opportunity, though Patterson put himself within an inch or two of making the ESPN SportsCenter highlights.

"He came real close, I think," Baker said of Patterson's attempt to track down Lee's two-run double. "I think it hit off the tip of his glove."

For a team in a funk, the tip of the glove might as well be a mile away from it. The results are the same, even when the effort is laudable.

Patterson's effort was.

"That's all I had there," Patterson said. "I had nothing else left in the tank. It was unfortunate for us I couldn't haul it in. But like I said, that's all I had left."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.