ST. LOUIS — The Reds bullpen reverted back to its early season form Monday night.
Ugly. Awful. So Bad.
But this was The Worst Ever.
Relievers Tony Cingrani and Ross Ohlendorf blew a 4-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Reds 5-4.
"I was really disappointed to not be able to come through in a big situation like that," said Ohlendorf, who gave up the winning run by hitting Yadier Molina with the bases loaded. "It was a fun situation as a pitcher, a chance to really make a difference for us, so it was disappointing when it doesn't happen."
The Cardinals took advantage of three walks and two hit batsmen in the ninth.
"The catalysts really were three walks and two hit by pitches and we allowed them to get excited and their fans to get excited and we weren't able to execute the pitches we needed to do to finish the inning," manager Bryan Price said.
Matt Carpenter drove in two runs with a single, Stephen Piscotty singled home another and Matt Holliday walked to load the bases before Cingrani (2-4) was lifted for Ohlendorf, who walked Brandon Moss to tie it before hitting Molina.
The Reds' bullpen has rebounded after a horrible start to the season in which it had ERAs of 6.21 and 7.25 in April and May, respectively. In July, the relievers combined for a 2.45 ERA, the third lowest in the National League, and had a 2.25 ERA in August entering the game.
"It's a miserable feeling," Price said, "but we've just got to come back tomorrow and win the game and get this feeling out of our system."
The rally spoiled what had the makings of Cody Reed's first major league win. Reed's six scoreless innings dropped the Reds' starters ERA to 2.84 over the last 11 games.
"It helps the confidence going into the next one," said Reed (0-6). "We didn't get the win, whatever, it's going to happen. It didn't happen today, it's going to happen years from now so no worries. I'll just get out there for the next one and try to win that one."
Reed set the tone with a scoreless first inning. He entered the game with a 14.63 ERA in the first inning, including giving up four runs to the Cardinals in the opening frame in his last outing.
"He made some great pitches especially when he had to," Moss said of Reed. "He did a much better job of controlling the strike zone and pitching off of it than he did the first time we faced him."
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha struggled to settle in as seven of the first 12 batters he faced reached base. Zack Cozart's double eluded the outstretched glove of Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday and went off the wall to give the Reds a 2-0 lead in the second. Cozart, who had two hits, scored when Joey Votto followed with a triple.
Seth Maness (2-2) pitched a perfect ninth to earn the win.
Billy Hamilton led off the game for the Reds with a single and stole second and third. He is 17 for 19 in stolen base attempts against Molina, a perennial gold glove catcher, and the 17 stolen bases are the most by any base runner against Molina.
Molina walked in the fourth inning to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 21 games. It is the longest streak by a Cardinals catcher since Gene Tenace reached in 35 straight between the 1981 and 1982 seasons.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon (right trapezius) and RHP A.J. Morris (strained right shoulder) began rehab assignments at Triple-A Louisville on Sunday. Simon gave up a run in an inning and Morris gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons (knee) saw a specialist in Chicago, but no update was available.
Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (7-8, 4.45 ERA) is coming off a two-hit, six-inning shutout of St. Louis in a 7-0 win last week. His current 12-inning scoreless streak is the longest of his career.
Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (8-9, 4.80 ERA) will look for better results against his former team after allowing seven runs his last time out in Cincinnati. In two career starts against the Reds, he is 0-1 with a 10.32 ERA.