ST. LOUIS -- Reds starting pitchers are going down lately like Spinal Tap drummers in what's become a hazardous line of work. During a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday, Homer Bailey became the latest victim. A screaming line drive off the left foot -- hit by Albert Pujols -- ended Bailey's night just three batters and 12 pitches into his start. "I never saw the ball come off of the bat," Bailey said.
In Monday's series opener, a tight left hip flexor ended Johnny Cueto's start after just two innings. At least that turned out to be a cramp. Micah Owings has been on the disabled list for over two weeks because of a tight right shoulder. "If you don't have bad luck, you'd have no luck at all," Bailey said. "What can you do?" The injuries have had the Reds' bullpen buzzing like the stock market floor on Wall Street lately. Cincinnati relievers logged 18 innings in the series and 24 innings over the 3-3 road trip through San Francisco and St. Louis. Bailey began the game by allowing hard-hit back-to-back singles to Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan. But neither was as hard hit as the one Pujols ripped. On a 3-2 pitch, the ball was scorched up the middle off of the inside of Bailey's shoe and ricocheted back toward home plate. "Hits like that, the shoe doesn't matter," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. Although Pujols was already nearly on first base, Bailey curiously fired a desperation throw past first baseman Joey Votto and down the right-field line, scoring two and putting Pujols on third base with a single and two-base error. "If it's not hit off of my 13-size shoe that got in the way, it's a double-play ball," Bailey said. "[Brandon] Phillips was standing on second because the runners were going." Checked out briefly by assistant trainer Steve Baumann and Baker, Bailey attempted to wind up for a warmup pitch and couldn't do it. He walked off the field and headed for the clubhouse. "It hit right between my ankle and toe," Bailey said. "I knew it wasn't broken because I could walk. Once I lifted my leg, it's like a balloon went off and then it swelled up real big." X-rays taken on Bailey were negative for a fracture. He will be examined again on Thursday in Cincinnati. Expectations were that Bailey can make his next start. "After it leaves your bat, you can't control it," Pujols said. "I just wish that he's OK, that he'll be OK for the next start. We wanted to get him out of there, but not like that." But that didn't help the Reds on Wednesday, especially when they were facing Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. "Me and [pitching coach] Dick Pole were trying to figure out how we were going to make it through that game without completely destroying our bullpen," Baker said. Carlos Fisher took over for Bailey and induced a fly ball to right-center field by Matt Holliday. Willy Taveras took a long route to the ball and had to make a diving play, but the ball popped out of his glove for an RBI double and a 3-0 deficit. "It's hard to spot one of the best pitchers in baseball a 3-0 lead in the first inning," Baker said of Carpenter. "He certainly knows what to do." Carpenter, now 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts this season vs. Cincinnati, pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs and eight hits with 10 strikeouts. He retired 15 of his first 17 batters in the game through five innings with just two singles in the mix. None of the outs left the infield. Fisher, a rookie enjoying a superb season, saved some of the other arms in the bullpen by tossing a career-high 4 1/3 innings. But he also wasn't spared some damage at the hands of baseball's most feared hitter -- Pujols. With one out in the third inning and a 3-0 count, Fisher left a fat 93-mph fastball over the plate, and Pujols wasted no time depositing it in the left-field seats for his 38th homer of the season. "Carlos Fisher did a great job except for the 3-0 pitch to Albert," Baker said. Cincinnati finally broke through in the top of the sixth with four straight one-out hits against Carpenter, including Phillips' two-run single to left-center field, on which he advanced to second on the throw home. The rally ended when Wladimir Balentien was called out on strikes from a 97-mph fastball before Alex Gonzalez flied out. Baker said he would have to huddle with general manager Walt Jocketty to consider whether a fresh-armed reliever might be summoned. Still able to fit his sore foot into a pair of cowboy boots, Bailey said it was the first time he absorbed a direct strike from a batted ball. "I've had it go off my glove or nick a shoe," Bailey said. "I've never been hit square like that before. That guy has a little bit of power so it got off the bat really good."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.