CINCINNATI -- Homer Bailey did something Sunday that no one in the Reds' rotation has accomplished this season, and it was badly needed. Bailey became the first Reds starter in 2018 to complete more than six innings, as he pitched seven, but it was still not enough to stop Cincinnati's maddening losing streak.
That's because the Reds' offense was stifled by the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez before a late comeback effort fell just short in a 3-2 loss, Cincinnati's eighth in a row. That pushed the Reds' record to 2-13, equaling the club's worst start to a season through 15 games in the modern era. They were 2-13 in 1931 and 2-11-2 in 1913. The last team in the Majors to lose 13 of its first 15 games was the 2015 Brewers.
"I think the thing we take away from this one is really how resilient we were almost coming back there," Bailey said. "The bullpen was really locked down in the eighth and ninth. We kept battling back. It's good to see, especially after this kind of start. We have to have a little bit of fire, trying to win some games and come back. I thought we were close there. We had really good defense, which was good to see today too."
Despite the Reds being ranked last in ERA in the Majors, Bailey provided an outing that showed promise with his third quality start in four outings this season. The veteran gave up three runs and four hits with two walks and four strikeouts while throwing 90 pitches. But Martinez countered with seven scoreless innings, two hits, four walks and 11 strikeouts.
In the second inning, Bailey surrendered Harrison Bader's two-run home run and did not give up another hit until Jose Martinez hit a one-out double in the seventh. Before that, Bailey retired 13 of 14 batters with a walk being erased when Bader was caught stealing in the fifth inning.
"Their pitcher was good today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That was the best we've seen Homer in a while. He made good pitches all day long and he wasn't giving us much."
Following Martinez's double, Yadier Molina hit a drive over center fielder Billy Hamilton's head that scored another run to make it 3-0. Molina was thrown out trying for a double.
"It's kind of part of the job of a starter. You're going to win or lose a lot of games on just one or two pitches," Bailey said. "The two-run home run, the ball came back a little bit to the middle. I didn't make a whole lot of mistakes today, and they put together some good at-bats there at the end."
Bailey's record moved to 0-3 with a 3.42 ERA, but he wasn't taking any moral victories or appreciation of his personal season after three years marred by elbow injuries.
"My numbers alone don't count. It's what we're doing as a team," Bailey said. "We're just going to have to figure out a way to turn things around."
The Reds' offense showed signs of life over the final two innings. While Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes pitched zeros, the Cardinals' bullpen could not keep the Reds quiet. Tyler Lyons replaced Martinez on the mound and Hamilton pounced with a first-pitch homer into the left-field seats.
Jose Peraza reached on an error to bring the tying run to the plate, but Joey Votto bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Adam Duvall began the ninth inning against Bud Norris with a homer to left field. Tucker Barnhart bunted for a single and collided with Jose Martinez, and was awarded second base on review because the error throw rolled out of play.
Cincinnati was unable to capitalize as Phillip Ervin and Alex Blandino struck out. Following pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco being hit by a pitch, Hamilton lined out to left field to end the game.
The Reds were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. Their offense ranks last in the Majors in runs scored with 44, including just 19 runs during the current losing streak. Votto is batting .236 and drew only his third walk of the season Sunday. Meanwhile, Duvall is batting .160 and Hamilton is at .170.
Scott Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker are all missing because of injuries, but manager Bryan Price still expected his club to be accountable.
"You can't be a couple of injuries away from not being able to be productive," Price said. "The kids that are here are guys that we expected to be there this year, and it's not all on them, it's on the veterans to carry the load and be more productive. We've gotten off to a slow start offensively and that's not the reason. As a group, we're cumulatively struggling. Today was the sign of a well-played ballgame, but the offense just wasn't there today."
The struggles have created speculation about Price's job security as he sits on the hot seat in the final year of his contract. Hamilton offered his support.
"It's never the manager's fault. We're the ones playing the game," Hamilton said. "As long as we just keep going every single day and play hard and get some wins, it's going to all right. We all love him. He's great. Everybody is coming here every day and works. Going through this amount of losses is tough."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hamilton's homer perks up dugout: When Hamilton hit a first-pitch long ball off of Lyons -- his first of the season and his 500th career hit -- the Reds seemed to find renewed energy.
"I felt like everybody was all pumped up," Hamilton said. "We came back in the ninth and had a chance to tie the game up or win the game."
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HE SAID IT
"He's that guy who carries that burden as the No. 1 guy to come in and perform on a consistent basis to try and take some of the load and pressure off of the young guys that are trying to stop a losing streak. He gave us a chance to win. He pitched winning baseball in a loss. It was unfortunate we weren't able to take advantage of that type of an effort." -- Price, on Bailey's effort
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
When Barnhart dropped down his bunt single, following Duvall's homer, third baseman Greg Garcia made a bad throw that pulled Martinez into the runner's path. As the two collided, the ball ricocheted in and out of a camera well adjacent to the Reds' dugout. As Barnhart remained at first base and was replaced by Winker as a pinch-runner, the Reds challenged the call. The play on the field was overturned and Barnhart/Winker was awarded second base on the error.
A three-game series at Milwaukee begins at 7:40 p.m. ET Monday with Luis Castillo getting the ball for the Reds against lefty and Cincinnati-native Brent Suter. Castillo is off to a poor start at 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in three games and has given up four homers. In two starts vs. the Brewers last season, he was 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA.