He didn't locate his pitches, had trouble with the velocity of his fastball, hit a batter and even balked a runner from second to third. After a rough first inning, he regained the lead, only to falter again and let it slip away.
Thompson's third career Major League start lasted an uninspiring 4 1/3 innings, and the Pirates took advantage of his every mistake as the Reds fell, 9-5, at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday night.
"It was bad," Thompson said. "I was throwing a lot of strikes, but I didn't have anything on my fastball tonight. They came out ready to swing. I couldn't get the ball down in the zone like I wanted to. I left it up, and they made me pay for it."
The Reds have lost seven of their past eight at home, including two straight after a 5-4 road trip through New York, Toronto and Cleveland.
Thompson (0-2) hasn't lasted more than five innings in any of his three starts since being called up from Triple-A Lousiville on June 21. After not allowing a run in his first nine innings as a Major Leaguer, he's given up 11 in his last 8 1/3.
"He couldn't keep the ball down and he wasn't locating like he was before," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "His secondary pitches were better tonight, but the damage was done on his primary pitch -- his fastball."
Nate McLouth sent Thompson's first pitch -- an 89-mph fastball over the heart of the plate -- into the right-field corner for a leadoff double. Thompson gave up hits to the first five batters he faced, and after RBI groundouts by Adam LaRoche and Jose Bautista, the Reds were in a 4-0 hole before they even came to the plate.
Thompson's fastball usually hovers between 93-96 mph, as it did when he pitched five scoreless innings in his big league debut against the Yankees on June 21. On Wednesday, however, he struggled to get it above the low 90's and stayed up in the zone, handing the Pirates golden opportunities to build on a lead that was pretty substantial from the get-go.
"He didn't have his good fastball," Baker said. "He found the heart of the plate a lot. Those guys have a good hitting ballclub, and they jumped [on] him right away from the first pitch. We were in a hole, and it didn't help the fact that our bullpen was very spent. They beat us up pretty good."
The Reds exhausted every member of their bullpen, except Gary Majewski in an 11-inning loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. With the relief corps thin, Baker wanted Thompson to battle for as long as he could.
It wound up being a bit too long.
Adam Dunn and Jay Bruce hit three home runs between them and gave the Reds a 5-4 lead after the second. Cincinnati kept it tied at 5 until fifth, when Ryan Doumit singled to right and Xavier Nady connected on Thompson's 1-1 fastball -- this one just 88 mph -- for a his second home run of the game and a 7-5 Pirates lead.
"When you go out there and don't have your stuff, you've just got to be able to battle through," Thompson said. "It's not my first time to go out there and have this happen. I battled through it like I really wanted to. I tried and tried, but I couldn't keep the ball down. It just didn't go my way."
Thompson gave up seven runs on eight hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Bruce was the lone bright spot for Cincinnati, as he went 2-for-3 with one walk, two home runs and four RBIs. He led off the Reds' first inning with a home run off of nearby Ludlow, Ky., native John Van Benschoten and hit a three-run shot in the second to give the Reds their brief 5-4 lead.
After being roughed up in the second, Van Benschoten left the game in the third, but Denny Bautista (1-1) and the rest of Pittsburgh's bullpen gave up just two hits the rest of the game. Cincinnati didn't put a runner in scoring position after the third until Javier Valentin's double in the ninth.
"We played some good games with these guys, but the bottom line is you've got to win," Bruce said. "Good games don't count as wins."
Brandon Harris is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.