LOS ANGELES -- After playing Sunday Night Baseball and flying overnight, the Reds had more than few players craving sleep on Monday afternoon. The team did not get to its Los Angeles hotel until 3 a.m. PT before opening a series vs. the Dodgers.
What followed in the twilight hours was almost a waking nightmare for the Reds' lineup in the form of Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers left-hander took a perfect game into the eighth inning before the wakeup call was answered just a little too late in a 4-3 defeat.
"Our silver lining today was the fact that we really rallied the last couple of innings," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Leading off the eighth, Todd Frazier lined a 1-0 pitch from Ryu near the left-field line for a clean double to become the Reds' first baserunner after 21 in a row were retired. It sparked a three-run rally in which nine men batted before the inning ended with the bases loaded.
Once Frazier scored on Chris Heisey's sacrifice fly in the eighth, it ended a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings after they were handed a 4-0 shutout by the Cardinals the previous night.
For the Dodgers, they flirted with making history by being the first team to notch no-hitters in consecutive games. Before Monday's game, Dodger Stadium was celebrating Josh Beckett's no-hitter in Sunday's 6-0 win at Philadelphia.
"We stayed positive," Heisey said of the club's mood while Ryu was mowing the team down. "We were able to keep life in there and everybody was picking each other up. There was a lot of confidence. You've got to keep battling."
Reds ace Johnny Cueto pitched well, mostly, but the familiar story of coming up short got another chapter. Cueto, who flew to the West Coast Sunday afternoon ahead of his team to get enough rest, allowed four runs -- only one was earned -- on four hits and two walks while striking out three over 6 1/3 innings.
Now 4-4 with a 1.83 ERA, three of Cueto's losses have come when the Reds have scored three or fewer runs.
"It's the way it is. That's how baseball is," Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. "That's how the game goes. All you have to do every time you go out there, is do your job. Everybody else has to do their own job. I did my job."
The Reds have often given their pitchers little margin for error for much of the season. In this game, the difference was largely created by errors. In the bottom of the third inning, Cueto gave up a leadoff single to Drew Butera, who moved to second base on a one-out sacrifice bunt by Ryu. Dee Gordon grounded to the right side, where Frazier couldn't make a backhanded play. Butera, who never stopped running, scored easily for the Dodgers' lead.
Ryu had nothing but smooth sailing for most of his outing. Nice defensive plays, particularly by Justin Turner at third base, kept the Reds from reaching safely. Turner took two hits away from Zack Cozart alone with diving stops in the first and fourth innings.
"They were a huge part of the game today," Ryu said through his translator. "He actually inspired me to try a little bit harder after he made those plays early."
Other than that, Ryu had little drama to contend with.
"I'll tell you what. He wasn't leaving anything over the middle of the plate," Heisey said. "It was almost like he was setting his fastball up with his changeup and curveball. A lot of first-pitch changeups and curveballs. He did a great job of just mixing it really well and not giving in."
To begin the seventh, Cueto walked Turner after a 16-pitch duel that sent his pitch count skyward.
"I did my best there. I got tired," Cueto said. "He gave me a lot of foul balls, and that took out a lot of energy."
A one-out ground-rule double by Erisbel Arruebarrena followed to put runners on second and third. With the infield in on a full-count, Ryu grounded to shortstop, where Cozart dropped the ball after fielding it as Turner scored.
With Manny Parra in the game with two outs, Carl Crawford's two-run double made it 4-0. Not only did Ryu have to run the bases, but his arm was idle for the 32 minutes it took to complete the bottom of the seventh.
The crowd of 45,505 roared louder with each passing inning that Ryu stayed perfect. Frazier killed the euphoria in the eighth when he lined his leadoff double. Ryan Ludwick next added a single to put runners on the corners as the bats finally perked up. Heisey's sacrifice fly to right field scored Frazier before Brayan Pena added the third hit of the inning with a single to left field to end Ryu's night. He would be charged with three runs and three hits over 7 1/3 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
"Finally, Frazier got that double. That's kind of how it goes," Heisey said. "[Ryu is] locked in trying to make perfect pitches to keep us from getting a hit or base runner. Once we did that, we were able to get to him a little bit."
The rally kept going against reliever Brian Wilson, as pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker's two-out walk loaded the bases. Billy Hamilton lined a two-run double to right field to make it a one-run game. A third and tying run might have scored as the cut off throw to the plate got away from the catcher. But third-base coach Steve Smith held Schumaker at third base -- a move Price firmly supported.
"Unfortunately, when that happens and the ball bounces away, everyone goes, 'Oh shoot, you should've sent him.' Well you can't anticipate that," Price said. "If the guy made an accurate throw … then Schumaker is out by four or five or six strides. … That would not have been a smart baseball play."
After a Cozart walk reloaded the bases, closer Kenley Jensen struck out the inning's ninth batter -- Brandon Phillips. The Reds rallied with two outs in the ninth with two men on but left the tying run stranded on second base.
Cincinnati, which has dropped three in a row, is tied for the Major League lead with 13 one-run losses this season.
"There is a certain common theme to what's going on," Price said. "We've got to hang in tough and pull together. We have to find a way, a will, to win these games that are out there to win. And there's been a lot of them."