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Reds get to Greinke too late in fourth straight loss

Mesoraco's two-run homer in eighth isn't enough at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES -- A team strapped for meaningful and sustained offensive production is going to be hard-pressed to find any against Zack Greinke.

Even when the struggling Reds did something Tuesday night that no opponent has done against the Dodgers starter since last summer -- score more than two earned runs -- it was still was nowhere near enough.

Greinke struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings while Alfredo Simon was roughed up and pulled early during a 6-3 setback at Dodger Stadium. The Reds have lost a season-high four in a row. With a 22-28 record, they are also a season-high six games under .500.

"He's a very good pitcher," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Greinke. "[But] we just weren't in the position where we could give up a bulk of runs. We did. They had a big inning. Against him when he's on, it's a knockout blow."

Dodgers pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts without walking a batter. The only glimmer of good news for Cincinnati's lineup was it ended Greinke's streak of 22 straight starts in which he allowed two or fewer earned runs, dating back to July 30 of last season.

The bad news was that Greinke had long since had a commanding lead when Devin Mesoraco hit a two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning.

Much of the Dodgers' damage can be credited to Andre Ethier and his four RBIs. Ethier gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead against Simon when he hit a two-out first pitch over the fence in right-center field for his third homer of the season.

In the bottom of the fourth, Carl Crawford scorched a ball off first baseman Donald Lutz's glove for a single, and Yasiel Puig followed with a single up the middle. With one out and a three-ball count, Simon intentionally walked Adrian Gonzalez to face Ethier with the bases loaded.

Ethier lined a triple to the right-field corner that made it a 4-0 game. Simon would issue two more walks and another hit before being pulled with two outs for Logan Ondrusek.

"We talked about Gonzalez, that we might go after him early in the at-bat and if he fell behind we were going to walk him and set up the double play," Price said. "Ethier just got a pitch to hit, and he hit it and we couldn't stop the bleeding."

Before reporters could enter the clubhouse, Simon had already left without commenting about his outing.

"He's been so good this year about getting out of jams," Mesoraco said. "He's had guys on base and been able to find a way to get out of it. Today, he left some pitches over the middle part of the strike zone, and they capitalized on it."

Simon's only other bad start this season was a three-inning, five-run outing vs. the Rockies on May 10. In his two most recent starts, he gave up one run over 14 2/3 innings.

Now 6-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 10 starts this season, Simon has been trying to become a permanent member of the rotation once the man he replaced in Spring Training, Mat Latos, returns from the disabled list, presumably in the next couple of weeks.

The decision of who might move to the bullpen is likely to come down to Simon and lefty Tony Cingrani, who didn't look great in his last two outings after coming off the disabled list.

"We'll obviously have to make a decision when Mat makes it through his rehab," Price said. "There will be a multitude of factors that go into it. Alfredo and Tony are two completely different guys as far as experience and background of pitching out of the bullpen and development.

"We could use a little bit of help having some length in the bullpen. We've been asking Ondrusek and [J.J.] Hoover to be long guys, and that's really not who they are. Out of necessity, we've used them for length. However it ends up, we should find ourselves with someone that gives us length in our bullpen. It's something we desperately need."

Ondrusek came through 2 1/3 scoreless innings to help save the bullpen. Sean Marshall gave up a run in the seventh.

Greinke faced one batter over the minimum through four innings, but the potential perfect-game drama from a night earlier by Hyun-Jin Ryu was avoided early when Todd Frazier hit a one-out single in the second inning.

In the fifth, Lutz hit a double to the gap in right-center field and scored on a Roger Bernadina RBI single up the middle.

Greinke returned for the top of the eighth and gave up pinch-hitter Chris Heisey's leadoff double down the left-field line. With two outs, Mesoraco launched a 3-2 fastball into the seats in left-center field and knocked Greinke out of the game.

"You've got to try and get one in the middle, and you may get one in a game or one in an at-bat and can't miss it," Mesoraco said. "I got a fastball, probably middle-outer third and a little bit down. It was 3-2 and with Jay on deck, I figured they would bring in the lefty and he didn't want to walk me in that situation. I was hoping he would throw me a fastball."

It was the third time in his career -- with three different teams -- that Greinke has had no walks and at least 11 strikeouts in a game vs. the Reds.

"I don't know how that happened," Greinke said. "It is strange."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Devin Mesoraco, Alfredo Simon