Ultimately, it wasn't enough, but San Diego's offense looked more like the one that won six straight games than the one that had seen the Padres fall more than 20 games under .500 this season. The Padres smacked 11 hits and went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the loss.
"I thought we had good at-bats all night," said third baseman Chase Headley, who extended his season-long hit streak to 12 games Saturday. "There's no moral victories -- we want to win the game -- but I think it's a positive that they jumped ahead, we came back, they jumped ahead, we came back again ... we kept battling."
The comebacks were a necessity because of a shaky showing from starter Clayton Richard (6-9), who yielded six runs on eight hits in six-plus innings while striking out only two. He gave up two homers, one each to Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey. That made it Richard's fifth start this year in which he's given up more than one round-tripper, and he now has allowed 16 homers this season.
"Clayton was victimized by a little bit of an ambush on their side," Black said. "They came out swinging early and they connected ... they bunched their hits together. The Reds were hacking and they squared some balls up."
Stubbs was the first to square one up, clubbing a homer in the first to give Cincinnati an early 1-0 lead. But Padres right fielder Chris Denorfia, who had two hits in the game, brought his team right back with a leadoff home run on the very first pitch in the bottom of the inning.
"I didn't expect him to jump on that first pitch," Reds' starter Homer Bailey said.
"He kind of ambushed him," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Most guys take that first pitch. He leaped on it."
Both Richard and Bailey (7-6) settled in after that, each retiring at least 11 consecutive batters in the early innings. Richard was the first to blink again, however, giving up two runs on three hits in the fifth, before yielding three more runs in the seventh.
"Some stuff got up in the zone a little bit, and they took advantage," Richard said. "My fastball was not quite as consistent as I'd like it to be. To be effective you have to be down close all the time, and a few got up and it cost us."
The Padres climbed their way back from the two-run deficit with a run apiece in the fifth and sixth. Both those tallies were aided by Cincinnati errors. The first run came thanks in part to a throwing error by Bailey that moved Cameron Maybin into scoring position. Logan Forsythe, who had three hits and two RBIs in the game, then sent Maybin to the plate with a single to left.
The second costly error came on a Headley fly ball to right. Jay Bruce ranged far into right-center field and seemed to have the ball lined up but simply couldn't glove it. That put Headley on second for Carlos Quentin, who snapped an 0-for-20 streak with an RBI single to tie things up.
After Heisey's homer and a Devin Mesoraco single put the Padres down three in the seventh, Quentin added another single in the eighth in another rally. His was the first of three singles in an inning that saw the tying run stranded at third when Denorfia lined out to center with the bases loaded.
That eighth-inning rally was the last chance San Diego would get, as Aroldis Chapman came in and struck out the side in the ninth in impressive fashion, touching 100 mph with multiple offerings.
"It's real velocity ... it's tough to pick up the ball," Black said. "The windup, the delivery, it's not easy. Look at the stats ... it's real."
While their rallies may have fallen just short, the Padres showed no symptoms of the early-season defensive lapses, hitting droughts, or mental mistakes that plagued them prior to their recent success.
"You hope that you get beat, not lose a game. There's a difference between going out there and giving a team a win, not playing well, not executing, that type of thing, and just getting beat," Headley said. "Sometimes the other team's just going to win, and that's what happened tonight."