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Reds battered by Rockies in rubber game

Villarreal struggles in spot start for injured Cueto

CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker simply sat at his desk in the home clubhouse at Great American Ball Park and shook his head.

Baker started Wednesday afternoon announcing that his ace, Johnny Cueto, was headed to the disabled list for the second time in a month instead of making his scheduled start against the Rockies. He ended the evening watching his team give up a season-high six home runs -- three of which came off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez -- on the way to a 12-4 loss, and there wasn't much else he could do other than shake his head.

"That was a whooping," Baker said.

Along with the homers, Cincinnati pitching gave up more hits (20) and runs than it had in any game this season. It began with Cueto's replacement, Pedro Villarreal, and it continued with relievers Alfredo Simon and Manny Parra. The Rockies put a runner on base in every inning but the fifth, and the hits just kept coming and coming.

"I haven't seen that many balls hit that hard," said Baker, struggling to think of a similar instance. "You knew they could hit, and once they started hitting, it gets contagious."

Villarreal, making his first Major League start, was told on Tuesday that he was headed to Cincinnati to replace Cueto, who was scratched from making his scheduled appearance with a right shoulder strain. The 25-year-old right-hander was slated to start for Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday, so he said nothing about his routine changed.

The opponent, however, wasn't quite the same.

"Obviously, they're a good ballclub," Villarreal said. "And they showed it today."

The Rockies jumped on the young pitcher early, as Gonzalez hit the first of his three home runs in the third at-bat of the game. Two innings later, it was Troy Tulowitzki connecting on a two-run shot before Gonzalez crushed a three-run bomb that traveled an estimated 476 feet before landing in the right-field bleachers.

"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was out," Gonzalez said. "It's tough for a human not to watch a ball when you hit it that far. It doesn't happen every night. It doesn't happen very often. It was a great swing and a good pitch."

Following a Michael Cuddyer single in the next at-bat, Villarreal's night was done after surrendering six runs on 10 hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. Still, the Reds were in striking distance thanks to a four-run outburst in the bottom of the first.

Zack Cozart started the rally with a double and Xavier Paul capped it off with a three-run homer. In between, Todd Frazier extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single, and the Cincinnati offense appeared to be rolling.

The Reds got just two more hits the rest of the night, though, as Rockies starter Jon Garland settled in and retired 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced before giving way to the bullpen.

"Sometimes it happens like that," Paul said. "Again, hats off to Garland. He's a veteran guy, that's why he's been in the league so long. He didn't let that first inning affect the rest of his outing."

For Baker, he was not pleased with the Reds' inability to reach base, let alone score, especially as he watched Colorado pour it on his team.

"It's disheartening when they come in here and hit more home runs in our park than we do," Baker said. "Usually, you don't have a record like ours when they out-hit you like that."

When Garland left the game after the sixth inning, the Rockies held a 6-4 lead, but they quickly added on in the seventh with Tulowitzki's second home run of the day. In the eighth, Gonzalez connected on his third homer to put the game out of reach.

With the loss, the Reds have now dropped five of their past eight. However, their 36-24 record is still the best mark the club has posted through 60 games since 2006.

Most importantly, Cincinnati stands alone in second place with the National League Central-leading Cardinals coming to town this weekend, and there's no time for the Reds to let their back-to-back losses linger.

"You can't have any carryover," Baker said. "That's one thing you can't do in this game. You can carry over if it's positive. If it's negative, you leave it back there in the last game."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Pedro Villarreal, Xavier Paul