CINCINNATI -- Homer Bailey had mastered the Pittsburgh Pirates in his career. Tuesday night, Bailey saw that script flipped.
Bailey allowed six runs on eight hits in just three innings as the National League Central-leading Reds lost the opener of a three-game series to the second-place Pirates, 8-4, at Great American Ball Park. Pittsburgh pulled to within two games of the Reds by beating Cincinnati for the third time in four games over the last week.
It was the first time Bailey had lost to Pittsburgh in nine career starts. He was 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA against the Pirates prior to Tuesday's game. He had not pitched since throwing a four-hit complete game at PNC Park last Tuesday in an 8-1 Cincinnati victory. He threw 103 pitches in that game, 77 for strikes, and threw first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 32 batters he faced.
"Sometimes it's tough after all of those days, six or seven days," said Bailey. "It was pretty simple. The fastball was up a little bit and I never could get a feel for my slider [and] curveball. When you have nights like that, it's going to be a short one. That's pretty much all there is to it."
The Reds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett on an RBI single by Joey Votto and a sacrifice fly by Jay Bruce in the first inning, but the Pirates answered decisively in their next two at-bats against Bailey.
The Pirates entered the game hitting .221, the lowest team batting average in the NL, but tied the score in the top of the second on an RBI single by third baseman Casey McGehee and an RBI double by shortstop Clint Barmes. McGehee entered the game hitting .190 while Barmes was batting just .176 with nine RBIs.
Bailey allowed a lead-off triple to Alex Presley in the third inning, followed by a home run to center field by Neil Walker. He retired the next two batters, but a single and two walks loaded the bases for Barmes, who delivered a two-run single to make it, 6-2.
"He threw a lot more early strikes [last week]. He was 0-1, 0-2," said Walker. "He didn't do that as much tonight, didn't command his stuff as well. A big league lineup is going to take advantage of that."
Bailey failed to pitch at least six innings for just the third time in 11 starts this season and lost his first decision since May 8. He had never given up more than three runs to the Pirates, never failed to complete at least five innings against them and the Reds had not lost to Pittsburgh in any of Bailey's previous eight starts.
"I'm not too worried about it at all," said Bailey. "With the way myself and our pitching coach [Bryan Price] and assistant pitching coach [Mack Jenkins] really work well together, I think this is something that can be cured quickly."
The Reds managed just five hits and three runs in five-plus innings against Burnett. They struck out eight times against Burnett and 15 times in total against Pittsburgh pitching while leaving 11 runners on base.
They mounted a threat in the ninth inning. Zack Cozart, Wilson Valdez and Votto singled off reliever Juan Cruz to begin the ninth and get the Reds to within four runs. Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan came on with runners on first and third with no outs. He ended the rally by striking out Brandon Phillips, Bruce and Chris Heisey swinging.
Valdez entered the game in the ninth inning defensively to replace Stubbs, who felt a twinge in his back on the left side after fouling off a pitch in the seventh inning. Stubbs did play in the eighth, recording a putout on a fly ball by Josh Harrison.
"We'll see how it feels tomorrow," said Stubbs. "You don't really know how severe it is, or not bad at all, until the next day a lot of times. I'll get some work on it and see what he says and then go from there."
Kevin Goheen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.