Not much paying off for Reds

Not much paying off for Reds

KANSAS CITY -- The scowl was clearly visible and if it were possible, smoke would have been coming out of Reds manager Dusty Baker's ears after Saturday's 7-4 loss to the Royals.

A lot of things went wrong for the Reds during their third straight loss, but it was one play in particular that had Baker fuming.

In the fifth inning against wild-throwing Royals starter Kyle Davies, Brandon Phillips swung on a 3-0 pitch and flied out to right field to end the inning and a rally. Davies had walked two batters already in the inning. He had five walks and 100 pitches thrown in five innings overall but just two hits allowed.

"Brandon was supposed to be taking on that 3-0," Baker said. "That could have been the ballgame because we had him on the ropes at that time. He said he didn't see the take but in that situation, you have to know you're taking even if you don't see the take. That's a big play in the ballgame.

"I know [third base coach] Mark [Berry] gave it to him. I saw him give it to him."

Phillips defended his aggressiveness in that situation.

"Honestly, in that situation, why wouldn't I swing on 3-0?" Phillips said. "We only had two hits at the time. Our offense stinks right now. I respect my teammates and they know it, too. They see what's going on. We really haven't faced anyone overmatching us. I can understand if we're facing No. 1 pitchers but we're not. Our team is too good to get out by the pitchers we're facing. We should be undefeated on this road trip.

"We're struggling. We're not getting anybody on base. We haven't been hitting with people in scoring position. I had an opportunity. I swung on 3-0. To tell you the truth, I didn't even look down there. I was trying to make something happen."

The Reds, now one game over .500 at 31-30, are hitting .177 as a team in the last nine games and have been held to three runs or less in seven of them. They notched all of five hits in the last two games vs. last-place Kansas City, which started pitchers with a 7.85 ERA in Luke Hochevar, and Davies had a 5.13 ERA coming in.

"If I would have come through, it would have been the best play we've had all year," Phillips said. "It would have been a tie game. I tried to make something happen because we don't have anything going on right now. For future reference, I will not do it again. I apologized to everybody and said 'My bad for the 3-0 swing.'"

While the hitting has been missing, the Reds have stayed afloat on the backs of the rotation, which had a 2.28 ERA over the previous nine games. This time, Bronson Arroyo didn't come through.

Arroyo (7-5) gave up six earned runs on 11 hits over just five innings with two walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts. He had 47 pitches through two innings from loading the bases in both the first and second. Although Arroyo escaped the first inning clean, he gave up three runs and fell behind in the second after loading the bases with no outs.

One of the hits off Davies was Ryan Hanigan's two-run double to the left-field corner. Hanigan was on third with one out when he scored on Alex Gonzalez's sacrifice fly that made it a 3-3 game.

Arroyo immediately gave Kansas City the lead back in a two-run bottom of the third. Mark Teahen slugged a solo home run with one out and Kansas City added three more hits in the inning, including David DeJesus' RBI single.

A pitcher probably isn't having the greatest of nights when one of his shortest innings was the one delayed for three minutes by an umpire's replay review.

Billy Butler's drive to left field was confirmed as a foul ball and it was about the only thing that went right for Arroyo.

"We knew when we left camp that the only chance this team has to win is for the starters to have more quality starts than not," Arroyo said. "That's just the way it is. I didn't give them one tonight."

The Reds, who remain 2 1/2 games out of first place, had another chance to make something happen in the eighth when Gonzalez and Phillips started it with singles. But lefty reliever John Bale escaped by striking out the side.

The Royals claimed the three-game series after being winless in their previous 10 series (0-9-1).

"We didn't struggle only with the bats," Baker said. "We struggled with pitching. We struggled with defense and we just struggled, period."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.