Just to match last season's 72-90 record, the Reds would have to go 19-22 down the stretch. The way things have been going, that's also asking a lot, considering the Reds have traded away key players like Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. Last season, they kept the roster intact and finished above .500 for the second half.
On Wednesday, the Pirates and Paul Maholm needed only two hours and 14 minutes to set aside Cincinnati.
For four innings, Reds pitcher Josh Fogg seemed to be cruising and in total control of the Pirates.
"I was. The key word is 'was,'" Fogg lamented.
After he retired 12 of 14 through four scoreless innings, it got away. Pittsburgh scored four in the fifth inning off Fogg.
"That one inning cost us," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Corey Patterson's leadoff home run to right-center field off Maholm gave the Reds a 1-0 lead. But the Reds had trouble adding on anything until Jay Bruce's leadoff homer to right field in the seventh. It was Bruce's 12 homer of the season.
Fogg (2-5) gave up four earned runs and six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. It all came apart in the fifth once Brandon Moss led off with a double. Jason Michaels launched a 2-2 pitch sitting over the plate to left field for a two-run home run.
Still, the inning was salvageable. Fogg didn't help himself by walking eighth hitter Luis Rivas. With two outs, Doug Mientkiewicz dropped a bloop single to shallow left field, out of shortstop Jeff Keppinger's reach. A Nate McLouth walk loaded the bases for Ryan Doumit.
Trouble was imminent once Fogg fell into a 2-0 count. The next pitch was lifted towards the right-field seats and almost went for a grand slam. A fan reached over the railing, and Doumit had to settle for a two-run ground-rule double.
"I just didn't make pitches when I needed to after Michaels' home run," said Fogg, winless in his past four starts since he returned from taking a batting practice line drive to the face. "The rest of the inning got away from me. If I'm able to get that third out -- without Doumit hitting the double -- it's still a 2-1 ballgame and Bruce's home run ties it up. But I wasn't able to finish off that inning."
Baker had seen enough and pulled Fogg for Gary Majewski.
"He was pitching well tonight until that one inning," Baker said. "He had them off balance, off stride and was changing speeds. Then he got the ball up on Moss and then got behind. You have a dangerous hitter like Doumit up there and didn't get ahead. It was 2-0 and he had to come in there. He almost hit a grand slam."
Outside of the two solo homers, Maholm (8-7) cruised for eight innings. The lefty benefitted from three double plays on the ground and some nice defensive play at third base by Andy LaRoche, including a diving stop of pinch-hitter Adam Rosales' sharp grounder in the sixth.
"The left side of the infield, they know when he's pitching," Baker said. "They're really alert, because he's throwing sinkers and changeups and stuff. He's been pitching great, according to our reports, as of late. He had a lot of defensive help tonight, especially with double plays."