"That would have been Heartbreak Hotel if we lost that game," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose club is 6-8 on the season. "Everybody picked each other up today."
In the bottom of the eighth, with the game tied at 9, Paul Janish's soft, two-out single dropped in front of Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez, scoring the go-ahead run.
"I knew I didn't hit it well enough to get to him," said Janish, who entered the game at shortstop in an eighth-inning double switch. "It was one of those things where it was the best of both worlds. Placement is everything."
Trying to get a double, Janish got into a rundown between first and second base on the play. As he dashed toward an uncovered second base, Ramon Hernandez broke from third base to home as first baseman Ronnie Belliard dropped the ball while he prepped a throw to the plate.
"It was a heads-up play by Ramon getting to go home like that," Janish said. "They weren't able to execute, and it was a big insurance run."
Reds starter Homer Bailey struggled early to throw strikes and put himself into a 3-0 first-inning hole on Casey Blake's bases-clearing triple. Bailey threw first-pitch strikes to just three of his first seven hitters. He improved to 14 of his last 19 hitters the rest of the way and put up zeros in the second through fifth innings.
"It was same old stuff. I was trying to be too fine," said Bailey, who pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed five earned runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts. "There were a couple of calls that could have went either way. [Pitching coach Bryan] Price came out there and pretty much set me straight. He said, 'Just go after these guys. Quit trying to be too fine.' After that, everything just kind of flowed smoothly."
The Reds rallied for a six-run bottom of the second inning, beginning with five consecutive hits against pitcher Chad Billingsley that started with Brandon Phillips' first-pitch, leadoff homer to left field. By the time Joey Votto's two-run home run landed in the right-field seats in the fourth inning, Bailey had a 9-3 lead.
Bailey returned for the sixth and gave up solid hits to four of five batters, along with two more runs, making it 9-5.
"When you get a lead like that, it's a little bit of comfort," Bailey said. "Seeing as they're one of the best lineups in the National League, they just showed it by coming back. You have to remember there are 27 outs. I think that last inning I was out there, I kind of forgot that a little bit."
Cincinnati needed six relievers to get through the night. After Arthur Rhodes completed one scoreless inning and handed off to Nick Masset with one out in the eighth, the wheels came off.
Masset gave up four runs and four hits in one-third of an inning, including Matt Kemp's three-run homer to right-center field that made it a 9-9 game. It ensured that the Reds would continue to have the only winless rotation in the Majors.
Masset also issued a two-out walk before giving way to Mike Lincoln (1-0), who faced one batter in what proved to be a huge play. James Loney lined a hard drive to right field, where Jay Bruce made a fabulous catch on the run. It potentially kept the Dodgers from scoring the go-ahead run.
"That was an awesome play," Baker said. "He's been playing some great right field. He makes great plays every day. He works hard on it in BP and works on his jumps and throwing the ball."
Francisco Cordero recorded two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning for his fifth save.
Beating the Dodgers was already an uphill climb for the Reds, who had lost 11 of their previous 12 meetings with Los Angeles.
"It seems like all of them -- we work hard for them," Baker said of the last at-bat victories this season. "All that's doing is getting us ready for when things really get tight. We'll know how to play in those games."