CINCINNATI -- Reds starter Homer Bailey has craved consistency this season, and there have been several times when he seemed well on his way to getting there.
And then there are games like Wednesday's 8-4 loss to the Brewers. Bailey pitched only four-plus innings and allowed five runs, four earned, with seven hits, one walk and one strikeout. He was lifted after not retiring either of his two batters in the fifth.
The killers were a pair of two-run home runs -- Rickie Weeks in the second inning and Cody Ransom's shot in the fourth.
"There were just two bad pitches. Sometimes, that's all it takes," Bailey said.
Cincinnati missed a chance to sweep a three-game series from Milwaukee and to nab a winning homestand, instead settling for a 3-3 mark before embarking on an 11-day, 11-game West Coast road trip.
"You feel good about two out of three, but you would feel great if it's three out of three before going out on this road trip," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We just have to regroup on the coast."
In the previous four games, the Reds' rotation had been stellar. It provided seven shutout innings from ace Johnny Cueto and eight strong innings from Mike Leake -- both vs. the Twins. The wins vs. the Brewers featured Mat Latos' complete-game, 13-strikeout performance, and Bronson Arroyo taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Bailey could not complete the rotation cycle of quality as he matched up against Zack Greinke. The Brewers ace pitched six innings and gave up two runs and five hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
"Facing a guy like Greinke, if you're not putting up a lot of goose eggs up on the board, you're probably not going to get a win," Bailey said.
In the top of the second inning, Corey Hart smoked a drive to the warning track in center field. The ball went into and out of Chris Heisey's glove during a leaping catch attempt before he crashed into the wall. Next up was Weeks, who crushed Bailey's 2-1 pitch over the plate that traveled beyond Heisey's reach and over the wall for a two-run homer and a 2-0 Milwaukee lead.
Bailey's error on a pickoff throw to first base sent Norichika Aoki to second base with two outs in the third inning. It cost him a run when Aramis Ramirez's RBI single into left field scored Aoki and made it a three-run game.
Cincinnati mounted a two-out rally in the third on Heisey's double and Joey Votto's walk. Brandon Phillips came through with an RBI single to right field but would leave the game in the sixth because of dizziness. Phillips was clocked in the head by a sliding Ramirez, who tried to steal second base in the third.
Bailey had two outs in the top of the fourth, when Ransom ripped an 0-2 pitch to left field for a two-run homer.
"We were trying to elevate a fastball," said Bailey, who is 5-6 with a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts. "We didn't quite get it up as much as we wanted to."
"That was a big one, especially 0-2 and two outs with first base open in that situation," Baker said.
Bailey capped off the month of May with a one-run complete game at Pittsburgh -- his fourth straight quality outing. In five June starts, he is 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA. On June 16, he dealt one run over eight innings against the Mets, only to allow five runs in his last two starts.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Ryan Ludwick -- who homered twice in the game -- got one run back with a first-pitch homer to left field off of Greinke. But Greinke recovered to retire his final nine batters in a row.
"We needed to win this game," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, whose fourth-place club trails the first-place Reds by 7 1/2 games. "We're getting too far behind. We're not playing the way that we want to play."
In the bottom of the eighth against Francisco Rodriguez, Zack Cozart snapped an 0-for-19 skid with a leadoff single and took second base on a wild pitch. Heisey's walk brought Votto up representing the tying run. Votto just missed delivering just that as his drive to right field was caught at the warning track.
"He hit it right on the end of the bat. That was big," Baker said. "We just have to go back to work."
Reds reliever Jose Arredondo allowed three runs in a nine-batter ninth inning, which included a two-out RBI single and a pair of bases-loaded walks to put the game out of reach. Baker had to summon Sam LeCure to get the final out in the ninth.
"We were trying to stay away from Sam LeCure," Baker said. "He's my long man [Thursday] and the next day, especially after we used [Alfredo] Simon for a couple of innings. That was a rough beginning, and a rough end."