Wade Miley knew where the ball was headed when Corey Seager connected on a first-pitch slider for a two-run homer in the third inning Sunday.
He just hopes the Cincinnati Reds’ playoff chances didn’t fly away with it.
Miley had another rough start, giving up six runs and nine hits in three innings, with future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw pitching on the other side. The Reds lost, 8-5, in their series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 26,621 fans at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds have dropped eight consecutive series, their longest series losing streak since August 2015. They're four back in the loss column from the St. Louis Cardinals with 12 games left in their season. The Cardinals swept the San Diego Padres and won eight straight games to take a three-game lead in the wild-card race.
"We need to win some games, put some series together," Miley said. "I know we haven't won a series in a while. But we just have to keep playing. We can't press. Anything can happen. There are 12 games left, the Cardinals have (14) games left. They can go on a losing streak just like we have. Hopefully, we can turn this thing around and see what happens."
Miley has allowed at least nine hits and five runs in three of his last four starts. Before that, he had allowed more than four runs in a start just once in his previous 24 outings. He’s struggled with the location of his pitches, making mistakes over the middle of the plate.
"Clearly," Miley said, "I have not figured it out."
Things snowballed quickly for Miley. The Dodgers had four of their first five batters reach base against him in the second inning. Will Smith hit a solo homer that dropped in the first row of seats in left field.
Two batters later, it was Gavin Lux’s turn. Lux, who had the go-ahead hit in Saturday’s game, drilled a two-run homer to center. It was just his second big-league homer and fourth extra-base hit against a left-handed pitcher in 108 career plate appearances.
"Guys know what I'm going to do," Miley said. "That's the tricky thing; guys know what I'm going to do up there. It's not a secret and just not being able to get through the baseball down-and-away where I want it and just backing up over the plate. It's just not good."
In the third inning, Albert Pujols drew a one-out walk and Seager followed with a 420-foot homer to center field for a 5-0 lead. Miley immediately asked home-plate umpire Ryan Blakney for a new ball, but the damage was done.
Left-handed hitters entered Sunday with a .195 batting average against Miley with three doubles and one homer in his 25 starts. Seager and Lux, the two lefties in the Dodgers lineup besides Kershaw, went 4-for-4 with two homers, two singles and five RBI.
Miley was pulled after three innings and 64 pitches. It was tied for his shortest start of the season. Miley didn't rule out it was a physical issue, saying he'll rewatch video of his start Monday.
"Definitely the last few times out, he hasn’t felt as good," Reds manager David Bell said. "Definitely want to make sure he’s healthy. Of course, there is fatigue this time of the year. Definitely want to take a close look at that and make sure everything is OK."
The Reds didn’t do much against Kershaw, who made his second start since returning from the 60-day injured list (forearm inflammation). Kershaw allowed three hits and one run across five innings, striking out eight while relying heavily on his slider.
Nick Castellanos hit a one-out double in the fourth inning, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout. He was the only runner who touched third base against Kershaw.
"I'm a little biased, but I thought he got squeezed at times today," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He was fantastic. I think the story of the day was his slider was really good."
TJ Friedl opened the sixth inning with a solo homer to right field for his first Major League hit. He became the first Reds player with a pinch-hit homer for his first big-league hit since Juan Francisco on Sept. 18, 2009.
No silent treatment after he rounded the bases. Teammates high-fived Friedl and Tyler Stephenson, his good friend, waited at the end of the dugout to give him a bear hug.
"I remembered running at third and heading home to really live in that moment and just embrace everything going on," Friedl said. "That’s a one-time thing. You’ll never get that back. You never get your first hit back. For that hit to be a home run, it’s so meaningful."
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts asked the fan, Michael Diddle of Portsmouth, who caught homer to throw it to him, so they could save the ball for Friedl. Diddle immediately tossed it back to Betts, and Betts rewarded him with a signed bat the following inning.
"When I turned around and saw Mookie running out with a bat into the outfield," Friedl said, "chills, honestly. For him to do that for me was incredible.”
The Reds added two runs in the eighth inning and brought the game-tying run to the plate. Friedl hit a one-out single and Jonathan India followed with an RBI double down the left-field line.
Castellanos added a two-out, RBI single into shallow right field, cutting the Reds’ deficit to 6-4. The crowd, desperately waiting to cheer all afternoon, had visions of an epic comeback.
Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen struck out Tyler Stephenson on three pitches.