CLEVELAND -- Knowing his bullpen was gassed, manager Dusty Baker envisioned Sunday as a chance for Homer Bailey to step up and give his team a long effort, and more."That's why I left him in certain games, certain situations, to help him get to this point of maturity to know the importance of this game, how to handle it and pitch accordingly," Baker said Sunday morning. "It's kind of felt like the making of an ace. That's what I told him. It's a big game for us and him. It's not do or die, but it sure can take us a long ways and take his confidence over the top." It wasn't very long into a 4-3 Reds loss to the Indians when that notion was all but forgotten. Bailey came out after 2 1/3 innings with right shoulder tightness and it was up to the bullpen to fill in for the remaining 5 2/3 frames.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Three relievers -- Micah Owings, Daniel Ray Herrera and Carlos Fisher -- almost pulled it off. At the minimum, they lessened a potential doomsday scenario for the bullpen. Closer Francisco Cordero and setup man Nick Masset were already unavailable and lefty Arthur Rhodes had limited availability. "It came at the wrong time for my bullpen," Baker said after the game. "They pitched well out there and kept us in the game. We had opportunities later and hit the ball hard but just couldn't find holes." The Reds missed a chance at a three-game sweep of Cleveland and went home 2-3 on their road trip. It also knocked them out of first place by a half-game behind the Cardinals, who won their game against the Angels in 10 innings. "We played well on the road trip," said third baseman Scott Rolen, who hit a pair of home runs on Sunday. "We had a chance to win both games in Atlanta. We were in position, with a hit here or there, to have maybe won this game as well. When you're putting yourself in position to get timely hits and win ballgames, you're playing good baseball." Rolen's first homer was a two-run shot to left field off David Huff (2-6) with two outs in the first inning for a 2-0 lead. But Bailey labored in the bottom of the first while giving up three hits and a walk. Shelley Duncan's two-out RBI single tied the game at 2. In the third, Shin-Soo Choo led off with a triple off the left-field wall against Bailey. As Travis Hafner flied out, Bailey showed discomfort and was lifted. Owings gave up a sacrifice fly to Russell Branyan that scored Choo, but let no other runs score despite walking the bases loaded. Owings, who threw 12 pitches in one inning Saturday, threw 62 pitches and walked five in 2 2/3 innings. Rolen's second home run, a solo shot in the sixth, tied the game, but Herrera wasn't sharp when he opened the bottom of the sixth. Trevor Crowe blooped a one-out single off Herrera into center field and Choo followed with a single to right field. Hafner struck out on a 66-mph screwball. Against Jhonny Peralta, Herrera got two strikes with his screwball but missed with a fastball that Peralta lined into left field for an RBI single that scored Crowe with the go-ahead run. "He had Peralta eating out of his hands with the [screwball]," Baker said. "He tried to sneak a fastball by him on the inside and it came back over the plate. It was a bad pitch on Jhonny, who is hitting [.140] vs. left-handers." For Herrera (0-2), that made it 12 hits allowed over his past 4 1/3 innings of work. "There is really no excuse for it," Herrera said. "Lately, I've been called in during key situations to get guys out and I haven't been able to get a clean inning. It's nothing that I've changed. It's just about hitting my spots again." Huff allowed three runs in six innings but the Reds came up empty against the Tribe's bullpen. Cincinnati managed only one more hit over three scoreless innings. It came in the ninth against Kerry Wood, who closed out the game for his first save of the season. The Reds are 10 games into a 20-game stretch without an off-day. The club might consider options to get a fresh reliever up from Triple-A Louisville. "We're fine. We're used to being worked a little bit," Herrera said. "We've been kind of going through phases of being overused and we had that streak of nobody getting used. Now we're back on it. Our bullpen is pretty tough. We can take care of a lot of situations."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.