The Reds came off a successful four-game series against Arizona. The Reds daylight between themselves and the Diamondbacks for the last NL wild card spot by winning three of four games this week.
But there was a matter of the Milwaukee Brewers between the Reds and its big adventure.
The two teams split the first two games. The Brewers prevailed Sunday with a 3-1 win.
The Reds sent Greg Reynolds to the mound replacing the injured Tony Cingrani, who was replacing the injured Johnny Cueto. Reynolds mission was to save the bullpen for St. Louis, oh and by the way, beat the Brewers.
He was pretty close to accomplishing both. Unfortunately, the Reds hitters were facing the good Marco Estrada, as opposed to the bad Marco Estrada.
The Mexican born pitcher, who attended Cal State Long Beach, returned to the mound August 6 after recovering from a strained hamstring. In four starts, including Sunday's, Estrada has a 2-0 record with a 1.88 ERA.
The Reds had a chance to jump on Estrada in the first inning.
Shin-Soo Choo opened the game with a single. He stole second after Todd Frazier flied out. As Joey Votto was drawing a walk, Choo stole third. The Reds centerfielder knocked the ball out of thirdbaseman Aramis Ramirez hands. With Ramirez laying on the turf in foul territory, Votto took second. Brandon Phillips lined out to a charging Carlos Gomez in center. Choo started to go home after the catch but stopped. The throw skipped past the catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The ball bounced off the backstop right to Estrada, backing up on the play. Choo was thrown out at home to end the inning.
The Reds wouldn't see another baserunner for five innings.
Estrada retired 16 batters in a row starting with Phillips, including six in a row by strikeout.
"Estrada had a good change up today," Dusty Baker said. "We knew it was coming but it was a good one. When I played, I knew Mario Soto had a good one too. Next to a well placed fastball, a good change up is the best pitch in baseball."
Reynolds was pretty good himself but not quite as sharp as Estrada. He hit Gomez with a pitch then gave up a home run to Caleb Gindl. Gindl homered in his second straight plate appearance. He hit one as a pinch hitter against Bronson Arroyo on Saturday.
"It was a cutter. I was trying to get it inside a little more," Reynolds said.
Reynolds pitched six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, a hit batter and two walks. His mission to save the bullpen was a success. Baker had to cover three innings with his bullpen.
"I could have been a little better at executing pitches," Reynolds said. "I threw more balls than I'm used to. I was falling behind a lot."
The Brewers added a run of Manny Parra on a leadoff, seventh inning single by Yuniesky Betancourt, a sacrifice and single by Jean Segura, which came of Sam LeCure.
Estrada had enough after seven innings. He allowed one hit and two walks.
"Estrada made his pitches today," said Jay Bruce, who has four home runs off Estrada and a .429 batting average. "When he does that he's tough. In my first at-bat I chased a few pitches. I my second at-bat, I didn't finish it. That has been my problem lately. I foul off pitches, I should hit."
Bruce hit a long line drive that hooked foul just before clearing the fence.
"We didn't make him pitch from the stretch," Zack Cozart said. "He was pretty comfortable out there. We didn't have a lot of base runners."
The Reds' opened the eighth with two hits off Brandon Kintzler by Devin Mesoraco and pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick but Cozart bounced into a force out. Chris Heisey and Choo struck out.
The Reds only score came on Votto's 20th home run in the ninth inning off Jim Henderson, who has converted his last 11 save opportunities. Votto is now alone in 15th place on the Reds all-time list with 152, one ahead of Joe Morgan and Pete Rose.