CINCINNATI -- Tuesday was the second of a 20-game stretch where the Reds play teams with above-.500 records 14 times. It also marked the return of Joey Votto from the disabled list and the first time the offense has been theoretically at full strength all season.
This would be as good a time as any for the Reds to start taking off. Instead, they dropped their second straight to the Dodgers with a 6-1 loss at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati, which has been outscored by a 12-3 margin in the last two games, has also lost five of its last seven games.
"It's getting to that point where we need to do better than we're doing," Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake said. "Especially when you're playing the top teams, if you're going down without a fight against these types of teams, you're putting yourself in a bad position for the remainder of the season. These are the teams where you find out who you really are."
And, who are the Reds?
"I guess it's yet to be determined," Leake said.
After rain delayed first pitch for two hours, five minutes, Leake tied the season high he set in his previous start with five earned runs allowed, over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up nine hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Josh Beckett cruised with just two hits -- both singles -- allowed over six innings with a hit batter, a walk and seven strikeouts. Beckett retired his first eight batters until Leake notched the first hit with a two-out single in the third inning.
"He just managed his pitches well and didn't really give us an opportunity to string anything together," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double to right-center field and scored on Andre Ethier's lined RBI double to left field.
Leake gave up four hits for three runs in the fifth. With a runner on first base and one out, Beckett showed bunt before swinging away and chopping a single over drawn-in third baseman Todd Frazier. Dee Gordon hit an RBI double to left field. The infield played in again when Hanley Ramirez's two-run single through the middle made it a 4-0 game.
The Reds haven't overcome more than a two-run deficit all season, and this gap marked curtains again. A one-out Dodgers rally in the sixth sped Leake's exit, which came after Justin Turner's blooped RBI single to right field scored Matt Kemp.
Leake had six straight quality starts in May and had a 2.16 ERA for the month, but he has allowed 10 earned runs and 17 hits over his last 11 1/3 innings in two June starts.
"That's a solid Major League lineup capable of scoring more than we've scored," Price said of his club. "All we can do is keep working hard, stay optimistic and fight. And we'll survive this difficult period of time -- this difficult first two-plus months of the season."
Sam LeCure gave up a run in the seventh, and against Dodgers lefty reliever Paul Maholm in the bottom of the seventh, Jay Bruce hit a leadoff double to the wall in left-center field and Devin Mesoraco reached on an infield hit before Zack Cozart hit an RBI single to left field. Earlier in the night in the fifth, Cozart was able to remain in the game after being hit in the helmet by a Beckett pitch.
"I've got some tightness in my jaw. I got up and I didn't feel dizzy. I told them I wanted to stay in the game," Cozart said. "I'm a big believer that if you're fine, you stay in the game."
The bases were loaded with two outs in the seventh against Chris Perez, but Frazier grounded out to end the inning. Votto led off the eighth inning with a flared single to left field in a 1-for-3 night with a walk, but was erased by Brandon Phillips' double play. The Reds left 10 men on base for the night.
Now with a 29-34 record, the fourth-place Reds remain eight games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central. According to statistician Joel Luckhaupt, the Reds' 216 runs through 63 games is the team's third-fewest since 1920. Cincinnati is ranked 29th out of 30 Major League teams in runs scored this season.
"There is no loss of faith," Price said. "I know there is frustration. We all feel it. We just have to dig ourselves out of it and push through it. We've got good players. We're going to win more games than probably people now expect."