CINCINNATI -- Bases loaded, no outs, trailing by three runs in the fourth inning and the pitcher coming to bat. Normally, it's a no-brainer for manager Dusty Baker to summon a pinch-hitter.
Circumstances were not quite normal, however, during the Reds' 7-2 loss to the Brewers. Baker was shorthanded for pitchers and could not bat for starter Chad Reineke.
"Oh yeah, if I had a full bullpen, that was our chance to get back in the game," Baker lamented.
The Reds trailed, 4-1, but had Brewers ace Zack Greinke in a corner after a walk and two singles left the bases full. Reineke batted for himself and worked an 0-2 count to a full count.
"Zack was trying to strike him out, and he couldn't strike him out," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "[Reineke] swung at the first two breaking balls and looks bad, and then doesn't swing at the rest."
But Reineke did finally take a swing and did the very thing he could least afford to do -- he grounded into a routine 6-4-3 double play that scored the Reds' only run of the fourth. The inning ended when Drew Stubbs was called out on strikes.
"In that situation, we were hoping for a hit but would have been satisfied with a popup or strikeout to give Stubby a chance with one out instead of two outs," Baker said.
"That's kind of a killer with bases loaded, nobody out, to ground into a double play, but I was just trying to do my best," Reineke said.
Called up from Triple-A Louisville to take the injured Homer Bailey's turn in the rotation, Reineke pitched 6 1/3 innings in his Reds debut. The right-hander allowed six runs, five earned, on five hits with five walks, a hit batter, two strikeouts and two home runs. It was his first big league game since Aug. 5, 2009, with the A's.
The Reds took a 1-0 lead against a laboring Greinke in the first inning after Stubbs hit a leadoff double and scored on Jay Bruce's two-out single lined to center field. For Bruce, it was his National League-leading 33rd RBI of May and 44th overall.
After retiring his first six batters, trouble for Reineke started in the third inning. Shortstop Edgar Renteria let leadoff hitter Yuniesky Betancourt's soft grounder roll between his legs for a two-base error. It stung some more as Nyjer Morgan immediately followed with an RBI single. After a one-out single by Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart hit a three-run homer to center field for a three-run lead.
Greinke, who was the first Brewers starter to get a victory at Great American Ball Park since Manny Parra on July 18 2009, racked up his pitch-count early and matched his season total entering the night by issuing three walks. But he also found ways out of trouble. There were runners on first and second with one out in the third inning when Bruce struck out and Scott Rolen grounded out to second base.
"Honestly, I think we beat ourselves today," second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I think we hit the ball pretty good. They were just playing in the right spots. [Greinke] still has his good stuff. He's one of the best pitchers in the league, and today was just not our day, really. He kept the ball down real good, and we just lost."
When the rally in the fourth inning started, Baker could not get his bullpen stirring in order to lift Reineke. Baker keeps a lineup card with notes on the availability of his relievers. Carlos Fisher was used a lot in recent extra innings. Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo were sore, the manager said. Only Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Francisco Cordero and rookie lefty Jeremy Horst could pitch, and Horst was the only guy available for more than one inning.
"It was 'no' behind Fisher, 'no' behind Arredondo and 'no' behind Ondrusek," Baker said. "That puts you in a bad situation when you have only one guy with length down there. I was counting it up. We didn't have enough to fill nine innings today."
Milwaukee added insurance in the sixth on Jonathan Lucroy's solo homer to left field. In the seventh, after Reineke issued back-to-back one-out walks, Horst gave up Hart's lined RBI single into center field. Horst wound up pitching the final 2 2/3 innings and did a good job limiting the Brewers to one more unearned run, created after a ball uncharacteristically went between replacement shortstop Paul Janish's legs.
A Cardinals win put the 28-28 third-place Reds five games back in the NL Central race and 2 1/2 games behind the second-place Brewers. Cincinnati has dropped 11 of its last 14 games to finish May with a 14-15 record.