A quality start by Aaron Harang went for naught because the offense couldn't push enough runs across in two key bases-loaded situations.
"The opportunities were there," manager Dave Miley said. "We just didn't get it done."
Harang (4-4) got it done, as has so often been the case this season, except for one bad pitch he made in the third inning.
With two on and two out, Harang and Melvin Mora negotiated themselves into a 3-2 count. When Harang offered a two-seam fastball up in the zone, Mora happily accepted, launching it into the left-field seats to make it a 3-0 game.
"I was trying to go in with a two-seamer, but it didn't run in like I wanted it to," Harang said. "That's why they're in first place. They don't miss mistakes. One mistake can kill you in that lineup."
Harang's mistake loomed large because the Reds made plenty of mistakes against Rodrigo Lopez (5-2).
Felipe Lopez's solo home run in the bottom of the third stood as the Reds' only hit through four innings. But they shook off those woes to load the bases with no outs in the fifth, only to see Jason LaRue hit into a fielder's choice, Harang strike out swinging and Ryan Freel pop out to short.
"We had some runners in scoring position, myself included, but [Lopez] made good pitches," LaRue said. "Baseball goes that way. Unfortunately, it's gone that way a lot for us this year."
It continued to go that way in the sixth. Sean Casey and Ken Griffey Jr. got aboard with consecutive one-out singles, and Wily Mo Pena reached on Rafael Palmeiro's fielding error to load the bases once again.
This time, the Reds did manage to get one run across, when reliever Steve Kline came in and let Casey score on a wild pitch. But the Reds went right back to the stranding game, as Adam Dunn popped out and Lopez grounded out.
"Without question, the key to the game was that fifth and sixth inning," Miley said. "If we get one or two more runs across, it's a whole different ballgame."
Instead, this was a ballgame in which the Reds struggled to match the strong work of their starter. The one bad pitch behind him, Harang went on to go seven innings, allowing five hits and two walks. He struck out a career-high 10 batters for the second time in his past three starts.
"He's gone out there and pitched his butt off," Griffey said of Harang. "We just haven't been able to get the runs that he deserves, and it's frustrating for us."
The frustration mounted when reliever Kent Mercker let the O's tack another run onto their lead in the eighth. Griffey responded with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning, but that was just another big hit that came at the wrong time.
More important, it was the last of the big hits for the Reds, whose last four outs were strikeouts against Jorge Julio and B.J. Ryan.
"We had our chances, obviously," Miley said.
The Reds just didn't have the timing.