CINCINNATI -- Including Sunday, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey has made 13 starts over the last three seasons amid three different surgeries on his right elbow. The 14-4 loss to the Nationals at Great American Ball Park was his fifth start since returning from the latest procedure, and his season has produced three bad outings and two good ones.
Bailey, who gave up eight earned runs and eight hits over four-plus innings to fall to 2-3 with a 10.13 ERA, wasn't using rust as a reason behind his 2017 resume.
"I wasn't consistent and wasn't making good pitches. That's a recipe to have a game like today," said Bailey, who walked two and struck out five. "I don't have excuses. I didn't make pitches today. This isn't rocket science. Make bad pitches, those guys are going to hit them. We just need to get a little better."
Bailey, 31, had a 27.00 ERA through his first two starts but won his previous two starts, at Colorado and Arizona, to go into the All-Star break 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in those games.
The elbow wasn't balky as Bailey was still getting good velocity, averaging 93 mph with his fastball according to Statcast™.
"There's been zero health issues," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "No doubt, you don't pitch as infrequently as he has in the last three years and come back and be the 2012-2013 version of Homer Bailey. That being said, our expectation, and I'm sure his, is that he'll go out and perform and give us games that look a lot more like the Colorado and the Arizona game than the other three."
The Reds needed a strong performance badly to stop a Nationals juggernaut lineup that has now outscored them, 29-11, through the first three games of the four-game series. It was clear early that Bailey wasn't going to be the guy to do it.
With two outs in the first inning, Bailey left a 94-mph fastball over the plate that Daniel Murphy hit into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. Back-to-back doubles opened the second inning and led to two more runs and a 4-0 deficit. Bailey was already at 70 pitches through four innings.
It was 4-2 when Bailey could not get an out in the fifth. He walked his first two batters before Murphy clobbered a 1-2 slider to right field for a three-run home run.
"I didn't think there were a whole lot of options to go to in that game," Price said of Bailey's repertoire. "He didn't really have the crisp, reliable fastball. The slider was OK. The split looked like it was cutting early in the game. I thought they were sliders, but I think they were splits that were cutting, which would suggest that he wasn't really getting through the ball very well, if I'm correct with that assessment."
Price also didn't want to fall back on Bailey's health history for the results.
"It's a legitimate question," Price said. "I don't want to keep coming back and trying to justify poor outings. I just want guys to go out there and play and their performance speak for itself. In the back of my mind, I'm always aware of what Homer went through to get back on the mound. He'll always curry some favor with me through the rest of this season where he's trying to get back on top of his game.
"You hate to talk about it as much as we have in the first five games, because it sounds like what I don't like, and that's excuses. Perform. Go out there and perform better."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.