CINCINNATI -- Not a day has passed in the last month when Padres manager Bud Black hasn't praised his team's improved offense, not necessarily for the uptick in runs but the quality of at-bats he's seen over a prolonged stretch of time.
"It's a great boost to the guys, the way we're swinging," Black said.
Never more was there a quality at-bat than the final one Tuesday at Great American Ball Park, when Padres third baseman Chase Headley battled Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in a 10-pitch at-bat in a one-run game before a crowd of 20,356 fans.
Chapman and the Reds eventually won the battle and the game, as the Reds held on for a 7-6 win over the Padres, though Headley said afterward that he wishes the outcome had been different -- not just because he struck out swinging on a slider but because he didn't feel like he swung at all.
Headley, after fouling off five pitches, attempted to check his swing on a slider down and in but plate umpire Alfonso Marquez said that Headley had swung and that he was out. The Padres felt Marquez should have asked for help from first-base umpire Tom Hallion.
"He's tough. I fought off some tough pitches and a missed a ball a couple of feet foul," Headley said. "I thought I held up, but it's a judgment call. I don't think I swung. The only complaint I have is if you see [what happens] if it goes to first base."
Earlier in the at-bat, Headley turned on a 99-mph fastball down and in and lined it hard down the left-field line. The ball looked true off his bat, Headley said afterward, but hooked foul late.
Like Headley, Black saw the full-count pitch going the other way.
"From my vantage point ... no," Black said when asked if he thought Headley swung.
That at-bat certainly didn't end well for the Padres, though many of them did on a night where they trailed 6-0 after three innings when it appeared the Reds were going to roll.
Instead, the Padres -- who scored 11 runs on Monday -- came back with six runs in the fourth inning as they chased Reds starter Homer Bailey after 3 2/3 innings.
The Padres, who despite the loss finished the month with a 15-11 record, got three runs on one swing as Cameron Maybin drilled a home run, his fifth of the season and first since July 2. Headley, Will Venable and Alexi Amarista also knocked in runs with hits in the inning.
"We hung that pitch to Cameron Maybin. To be honest, that was the only pitch where we really made a mistake," Bailey said. "We left the ball up a little bit, just enough for them to hit the singles and the ones right down the line."
That six-run inning gave new life to Padres pitcher Jason Marquis, who struggled early in the game with his command, especially in a five-run third inning, when former Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick hit a three-run home run and Todd Frazier followed later with a two-run shot.
"I wasn't too good early on ... I got some balls up and fell behind," Marquis said. "But I tried to stay out there and battle the best that I could."
Marquis did just that, pitching into the seventh inning, when, with one out, Brandon Phillips broke the tie with a home run to left field to put the Reds on top, 7-6.
"I was trying to make a pitch down and in and left the ball in the middle of the plate," Marquis said.
On a night the Padres' bullpen was gassed from recent overuse, Black needed Marquis to get him some innings. Early on, it didn't look as if that would happen, though Marquis got a much better grip on his command the longer he pitched Tuesday.
"He was throwing the ball better at the end than the start," Black said.
Black had as much praise for the offense as he did Marquis. A night after scoring five and four runs in an inning, the Padres were able to bunch hits together in that fourth inning on Tuesday to make it a game.
"That was great," Black said. "Our guys never gave in and did it the right way. ... They didn't chip away."