CINCINNATI -- The starting pitching problems that plagued the Padres in the first three games of the series in Cincinnati came back to haunt them again Thursday afternoon.
The Padres had fallen behind early in all three games of the series, but managed to claw back to at least draw even each time.
This time, they couldn't overcome a six-run second inning surrendered by starter Ross Ohlendorf and fell to the Reds, 9-4, in the finale of a four-game series at Great American Ball Park.
"It was a little too deep," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We closed it. We just couldn't get all the way back like we have the last two nights. Just couldn't get there today. The guys fought hard."
The loss gave the Reds the series win and marked the third straight series the Padres have dropped.
After a smooth 1-2-3 first inning -- the first time in the series that San Diego didn't allow a run in the opening frame -- it began to unravel for Ohlendorf in the second.
The righty, making just his sixth start this year, gave up all six runs on six hits in the second, adding three walks and a balk to his rough afternoon. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season as a starter.
"I wasn't pitching as well as I can, but they also did a really good job hitting," Ohlendorf said. "I made a couple two-strike pitches that were a little too hittable. Then later in the inning, I wasn't throwing enough strikes. They did a really good job hitting. Luckily our bullpen did a really good job to kind of minimize the impact."
Ohlendorf was hitting his pitches, but the Reds were hitting Ohlendorf.
The first five batters he faced in the second crossed the plate before he managed to strike out a pair. Ohlendorf then walked three of the next four, marking the end of his outing.
"Even as he went deeper into that second inning, he was still making pitches," Black said. "He held his velocity, held his stuff. The back breaker was [Jay] Bruce's ground-ball hit that found a hole and the two walks and the balk all sort of added to the sixth run. But his stuff was still OK and it looked like he was pinpointing some pitches. The calls didn't go his way, but he battled in a long, long inning."
Black was forced to turn to his relievers relatively early all series, cycling through five arms Monday and four Wednesday. Thursday was no exception, with Eric Stults, Alex Hinshaw and Brad Brach all pitching at least one inning.
The 'pen only surrendered three earned runs in 14 2/3 innings pitched in the series, allowing the offense to get the club back into the game.
San Diego had the same recipe brewing Thursday, cutting the Reds' early lead in half, 6-3, with a three-run third inning, kick started by rookie Eddy Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, in his Major League debut, hit a solo home run in his first career at-bat on a 1-2 pitch from Reds starter Johnny Cueto to give the Padres their first run.
"It was amazing. It was everything and more than I expected," Rodriguez said. "The goal at the end is to get a 'W,' and I was battling trying to get all the way through those couple tough innings. But it was a great experience and it's something that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
It was San Diego's first hit of the afternoon, and just the fifth home run Cueto has allowed all season, the most recent coming May 25.
Back-to-back singles by Stults, who replaced Ohlendorf in the second, and Alexi Amarista led to a two-run single by Chase Headley on a misplayed ball by Reds shortstop Zack Cozart.
Cameron Maybin added a solo shot in the fourth to cut the deficit to two and give the Padres some signs of life. But they could only muster three singles over the final five innings.
"I like the way we swung the bats for a few innings," Black said. "We've got to get to that point offensively where we're putting pressure on the opposition every inning. That's every team's goal and every team's challenge. I do like the fact that when we have gotten behind, we come storming back. We got within two, but not quite enough."
The Reds in turn answered Maybin's homer with two runs in the bottom half of the frame and added another in the eighth inning to secure the series win.
"We needed [the runs] because they scored a lot of runs against us, more than most clubs that come in here," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They were swinging their bats well. When you have to beat them with a high-scoring game, it's what you have to do."
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.