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07/21/09 2:45 AM ET

Reds can't make fast start hold up

Lack of hustle from Phillips in first draws Baker's ire

LOS ANGELES -- Many things led to the Reds' 7-5 loss to the Dodgers on Monday night, but manager Dusty Baker's doghouse had a reservation held for just one player after the game.

It belonged to Brandon Phillips.

The Reds had bolted out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning against Dodgers starter Jason Schmidt and seemed poised for an early knockout. But the rally fell flat during Phillips' first at-bat when he didn't run out what originally appeared to be routine fly ball to right field.

"All you ask is to hustle," Baker said.

Schmidt's first three batters in the inning launched long drives to the wall that just fell short of home runs, including Willy Taveras, who hit a ball off the top of the fence that appeared to be a home run. It was ruled a triple and was upheld by the umpires on video review after Baker argued. The run scored anyway when Jerry Hairston hit a double to the left-field wall.

With no outs and Schmidt (1-0) in serious trouble, Phillips lifted a high fly into deep right field that Andre Ethier lost in the dusk sky. The ball fell in front of Ethier and Joey Votto scored. Phillips should have had an easy double, but he was slow out of the batter's box, and had barely reached first base when the ball fell in. Phillips was easily thrown out at second base by Ethier.

"I was just happy I finally did something with runners in scoring position," Phillips said. "I hit a fly ball to get the run and I was satisfied with that. I hit the ball in the outfield and was like, 'I missed it.' I put my head down. I didn't know he missed it until I looked back up. I could have done worse and not get the run in at all."

Then Phillips admitted his mistake.

"I messed up," he said. "That's my second time not hustling this year. It won't happen again."

That's still too late for Cincinnati, which saw the rally evaporate against Schmidt as the Reds fell to 0-10 at Dodger Stadium dating to 2006. Schmidt hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2007 because of two shoulder surgeries and was pitching in the mid-80s all night, including 35 throws in the first, but the Reds didn't notch another hit against him until Phillips' two-out single in the fifth.

"We should have gotten some more in that first inning, big time," Baker fumed. "You have to hustle on that ball there or it's a totally different inning. That was a rally killer for us.

"We've repeated it many, many times. You have to play hard all the time. That was big, real big. We had them on the ropes and we killed the rally."

When asked if he had talked to Phillips about the play, Baker replied: "Not yet."

This wasn't the first time this season Baker has been unhappy with Phillips. In June at Kansas City, he ignored a take sign on a 3-0 pitch and swung. It resulted in a rally-ending flyout.

"We've all talked to him until we're blue in the face," Baker said. "Evidently, this must have started long before I got here."

The window opened for the Dodgers, and they didn't miss against Micah Owings, who gave up hits to five of his first six batters. With one out, right fielder Chris Dickerson also had trouble with the sky and misplayed a one-out Ethier drive that went for an RBI double. Casey Blake followed with a two-run double to left-center field and James Loney added an RBI single to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead.

"If those things are going to happen, I have to be able to pick him up," Owings said of the Dickerson play. "We scored three in the first and were right where we wanted to be. I've got to go out and get us back in the dugout. I didn't do that tonight."

In the bottom of the second, Owings (6-10) surrendered a two-run homer to Manny Ramirez, No. 537 of his career. Leading off the fifth, Ethier hit a homer to right off of Owings, who gave up seven earned runs and nine hits over five innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

"Too many balls over the heart of the plate about belt high," Baker said. "He warmed up great, had great bullpens, it's just a matter of repeating the pitches."

The Reds scored two in the eighth with Votto scoring on Juan Castro's error at second base and Phillips coming home on a grounded double play by Edwin Encarnacion.

Adding to the sting was the three top teams in the National League Central race all lost, which meant the Reds missed a chance to gain ground. At 44-48, they remain in fifth place, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals

"That's certainly a game we should have fared better, especially when we ended up losing by only two runs," Baker said. "You think about what possibly could have been and wasn't."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.