The Reds lineup struck out 12 times on the night. It collected six hits one night after notching five hits in a four-homer game. At 45-54, it was back to a season-high nine games under .500.
The difference maker was a Kevin Kouzmanoff sacrifice fly against Reds reliever Nick Masset that snapped a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh inning. Cincinnati hasn't been able to win back-to-back games since July 1-2 vs. the D-backs.
"It's really frustrating," Baker said.
The Reds were playing without catcher Ryan Hanigan, who missed his fourth straight game with a sore neck. Outfielder Chris Dickerson went to the disabled list this week, as did fifth starter Micah Owings, who is often the main right-handed pinch-hitter off of the bench. That's on top of Jay Bruce and Ramon Hernandez, who have been missing for weeks.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo pitched a nice game and acknowledged the handicaps his team is playing with. However, he did not accept it as an excuse -- especially against a Padres team that has the second-worst record in the National League.
"It always hurts to have your usual guys out," Arroyo said. "It's really hard to put two or three new guys in the lineup on a steady basis and have everything click. That's just the way it is. Obviously, their team is banged up just as much, if not more, than ours is. Really, we should be able to take three of four in this series regardless. It's still going to take a good pitching performance. Any given day, a guy on their side can shut us down just as well as we can."
Arroyo held his end of the bargain over 6 1/3 innings as he gave up three earned runs with nine hits, two walks and six strikeouts. But Padres starter Kevin Correia was the winner with two runs allowed over six innings.
The game began with Arroyo giving up a leadoff triple to Tony Gwynn Jr., who Kouzmanoff drove in with a two-out RBI double to center field. With runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the second, Jonny Gomes lined a RBI single to right field that scored Edwin Encarnacion. Next batter Craig Tatum hit a low liner off of first base that landed in the dirt for his first big league hit and RBI that scored Laynce Nix.
Adrian Gonzalez tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth with a 426-foot homer to right field against Arroyo. Correia gave up only two more hits the rest of his outing and, in the Reds' fourth, escaped clean after he had a runner on third base with one out.
In the sixth, when the Reds had runners on the corners with two outs, Tatum scorched a liner to the mound that was snared in a nice quick-reaction play by Correia.
"He made an unbelievable stab in the bottom of the sixth to keep the score tied," Arroyo said. "If that goes through, maybe we get one and then close them out. It's the way it goes."
The San Diego bullpen tandem of Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and closer Heath Bell shut the door over the final three innings. They combined to retire the final nine Reds batters with seven strikeouts, including a stretch of six-straight K's.
"I don't think you could have had three better innings," Correia said of his relievers. "In a close game when you're looking for a chance at a win, that's what you're hoping for. It was pretty impressive."
While his hitters were coming up empty, Baker was in the dugout running out of buttons to push for a boost from his depleted bench. His only pinch-hitter used was rookie Drew Sutton, who is 1-for-9 in eight big league games.
"I didn't want to double-switch anybody," Baker said. "I couldn't double switch Tatum because I didn't have another catcher. I couldn't take Gomes out, my hottest hitter, or Nix. By then, you get back to the top of the lineup and they'd come out right-handed like they did."
The bullpen was also shorthanded since Baker avoided using lefty setup man Arthur Rhodes for a third-straight game. With 112 pitches, Arroyo returned to start the top of the seventh and gave up a double to Gwynn, who moved to third base on David Eckstein's sacrifice. After an intentional walk of Gonzalez put runners on the corners, Baker wanted Masset to induce a double play.
The move was solid, especially since Kouzmanoff was 11-for-16 lifetime vs. Arroyo. But Masset gave up a long fly ball to right field for the sacrifice fly that easily brought home Gwynn for the go-ahead run.
"Masset is our best sinkerball, double-play guy," Baker said. "We took our shot with him vs. going through the whole bullpen. He just got the ball up. They got a sac fly and won the game."