Reds manager Dusty Baker is convinced that his team will eventually put it all together at the plate. He just hopes that moment comes sooner rather than later, especially after the events of the last week.
Since winning four of five and averaging 7.2 runs per game from July 22-25, Cincinnati has dropped a season-high-tying five straight games, scoring two runs or less in each contest. The Reds lost on a walk-off homer in an 11-inning shutout on Sunday and fell victim to a last at-bat home run again on Monday. Tuesday wasn't much better, as Cincinnati collected five hits and stranded eight runners in a 4-2 loss.
The Reds have gone 4-for-30 (.133) with runners in scoring position during the current five-game skid, but Baker knows his club is better than it is playing.
"We're due to produce better than we're producing," Baker said. "I believe that. It's been a struggle all year. We haven't hit our stride, so to speak. I just believe it's going to happen in a big way."
While the Reds will be looking to bust out of their slump, Padres pitcher Eric Stults will try to sink them even lower. And with the way Stults has pitched at Petco Park this season, there's a good chance of that happening.
The 33-year-old left-hander has gone 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last seven home starts, limiting visiting teams to a .173 (32-for-185) batting average. San Diego won all eight of Stults' last eight home outings dating back to April 27. Stults is likely happy to return to Petco Park after giving up seven runs (five earned) and 11 hits in just five innings at Arizona on Friday.
Stults wasn't overly discouraged after that outing, as the D-backs simply seemed to have his number.
"I threw some bad ones, but they hit a lot of good pitches, too," Stults said. "Sometimes ... you have those nights where it doesn't matter what you throw."
Homer Bailey will take the bump for the Reds, who haven't done the 27-year-old right-hander any favors, as the club has averaged just 3.48 runs per game when he starts. He's 1-6 in his last eight outings, with the one win coming on July 2, when Bailey no-hit the Giants and allowed just one walk while striking out nine. Since then, he is 0-4 with a 4.68 ERA.
Reds: Ludwick needs rehab at-bats
As the Reds struggle to find answers offensively, it's tough to ignore the fact Ryan Ludwick is well on his way back from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Ludwick batted .275 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games last season, but he hasn't played since injuring the shoulder on Opening Day.
As much as the Reds would love to add Ludwick's bat to the mix, Baker said the 35-year-old outfielder, who has played in five total rehab games for Class A Dayton and Triple-A Louisville, isn't ready to help the team quite yet.
"Not when he's played five-six innings and is 2-for-12," Baker said. "There was no way I figured we'd have him for the Cardinals [this weekend] anyway. He said he needs 30 [at-bats]. I think he needs at least 50. He's not only operating from behind, he's operating from way behind. But he's worked his butt off to get to this point."
Padres: Gyorko works on swing, returns to lineup
While sitting out two games in a row, Padres rookie Jedd Gyorko worked on doing what he could to improve his offensive production.
"I've been in the cage a lot," Gyorko said. "I've been working these last couple of days on getting back to a good routine and a good rhythm at the plate."
It took until the eighth inning, but Gyorko's work paid off in his fourth at-bat Tuesday, when he singled and eventually scored the go-ahead run after starting the game 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. In 12 games since coming back from a strained right groin, Gyorko is now 5-for-48 (.104) and said he hasn't been himself.
"I was swinging at bad pitches, pitches I wouldn't normally swing at," Gyorko said. "When you do that, you're going to get yourself into trouble. You can't press to get a bunch of hits in one at-bat. You have to take it one at-bat at a time and get back to what got me here. "I need to get a good pitch that I can control and put a good swing on it."
• The Reds haven't lost six straight games since May 18-23 of the 2011 season.
• Since losing 14 of 15 games from June 29-July 14, the Padres are 9-4, including four straight wins.
• After the series finale on Wednesday, the Padres get five more home games before making a return trip to Cincinnati for three more games against the Reds.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.