"The last few days we haven't been scoring runs," Baker said. "It seemed like when we get a good-pitched game, we don't score runs. When we need to score runs, we haven't been scoring them. It's been kind of hit and miss."
Now 2-5 with two games remaining on its nine-game homestand, Cincinnati is batting .174 (38-for-218) over its last seven games while scoring just 16 runs. It is 21-15 at home, compared to 12-24 on the road.
"When we go on the road, we just might rake," said second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was 0-for-3 with a walk. "We can't play good at home every day. A lot of people aren't hitting the ball well right now, including myself."
With Ken Griffey Jr. out of the lineup with an illness, Baker's offense and outfield were further limited. Center fielder Corey Patterson and his .193 batting average started in the game while Jay Bruce moved to right field.
The Reds' best chance to win came down to Patterson in the seventh. After the bases were loaded with one out against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, pinch-hitter Javier Valentin grounded out to first base against reliever Joe Beimel, scoring Edwin Encarnacion and snapping a 16-inning scoreless streak for the Reds.
It was the only run that would cross.
"I think that was our big inning, but we didn't come through," Phillips said. "Stuff like that happens. He pitched a good game, but we didn't take advantage of his mistakes."
Instead of going with Griffey to pinch-hit or a right-handed hitter, Baker kept the left-handed Patterson in to face the lefty Beimel. Patterson grounded out to second base and drew boos from the 26,906 fans in attendance.
"Everybody's wondering why I didn't pinch-hit for Corey," Baker said. "Corey, in his career, has been better against left-handers than right-handers. I was limited in the outfield and didn't have Junior today."
The only outfield options would have been starting shortstop Jolbert Cabrera and Andy Phillips. Neither had played much in the outfield and Phillips hadn't at all since Spring Training.
"I didn't want to put a guy out there that hasn't played out there," Baker said. "It's not fair to them, either. That ball will find you."
Patterson, who singled in his first at-bat in the first inning but got caught stealing, represented the tying run at the plate when he grounded out to first base to end the game.
"I've been in that situation before," Patterson said of his season-long struggles. "Can I play better? Yes, no doubt. But I'm not going to feel sorry for myself and make excuses."
A possible roster move could loom for Baker to get more outfield help. Norris Hopper, who has been on the disabled list since April with an arm injury, was seen in the Reds' dugout after spending several days on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville. Hopper has not been added back to the roster.
Cueto (5-7) gave up two earned runs and five hits over seven innings with three walks and two strikeouts. It was a good rebound from the rookie's six-run, eight-walk performance in a 10-0 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday.
But it wasn't enough. Not against Billingsley (5-7), who snapped a four-game winless streak with one earned run and five hits allowed over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander walked three and struck out nine, including a stretch of five in a row and seven of eight.
The last time Billingsley faced the Reds, on May 21 at Los Angeles, he threw seven scoreless innings.
Cueto's margin for error was paper thin and a big one came with one out in the top of the third. After the right-hander retired his first seven hitters in a row, he walked the eighth hitter, Angel Berroa. Billingsley sacrificed Berroa to second base and he scored easily when Juan Pierre laced a liner past diving left fielder Adam Dunn for an RBI double to the wall.
"That's what got them on the board," Baker said. "Other than that, he pitched a real good game."
In the Dodgers fourth, Jeff Kent hit a leadoff single and scored on Russell Martin's double to left field. Cueto fell into a bases-loaded, one-out jam but escaped by getting Berroa to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
"It's exactly what we wanted to see out of [Cueto] but we didn't get any runs," Baker said.