By HAL McCOY
For certain, the Cincinnati Reds need to change their modus operandi — quit scoring runs in the first inning.
They’ve scored first-inning runs in six straight games and in nine of their last 10 games.
But they still lose.
IT HAPPENED AGAIN Wednesday afternoon in Toronto’s Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays.
They scored two runs in the first inning and lost, 5-4. They scored first in all three games and lost all three to the Blue Jays, the last place team in the American League East.
Zack Cozart singled and Joey Votto homered off Toronto starter Mike Bolsinger, Votto’s 14th homer and a 2-0 Reds lead.
Reds starter Tim Adleman gave up a run in the bottom of the first, but the Reds scored a run in the second after two walks and a Jose Peraza double for a 3-1 lead.
Then the bats went silent.
ADLEMAN HELD THE BLUE JAYS to that one run until the fifth inning when he faced the bottom of the order.
No. 8 hitter Ryan Goins dropped a perfect bunt up the third base line for a hit.
That brought up back-up catcher Luke Maile, a Northern Kentucky (Edgewood) native who played college baseball at the University of Kentucky. He was 3 for 53 at the time. And he hit a two-run game-tying home run to make it 3-3.
IT STAYED 3-3 UNTIL THE seventh with Wandy Peralta on the mound. He issued a one-out 3-and-2 walk to Goins, but retired Maile for the second out.
And he was one pitch away from escaping, a 3-and-2 count on leadoff hitter Devon Travis. The 3-and-2 pitch ended up over the left center wall, the ninth home run of the series for Toronto and a 5-3 lead.
The Reds had oh-so-many chances that they frittered and the best was in the ninth against closer Robert Osuna.
SCOTT SCHEBLER LED THE ninth with a home run, his 16th that gave him the National League lead, cutting Toronto’s lead to 5-4.
After Scooter Gennett struck out, Tucker Barnhart singled. Jose Peraza hit a perfect double play ball, but it scooted through second baseman Goins legs.
Peraza promptly stole second, putting the potential tying run on third and the potential go-ahead run on the second.
Billy Hamilton struck out. Zack Cozart, owner of a .417 average with runners in scoring position, struck out. Game over.
THE REDS HAD OPPORTUNITIES in the sixth and seventh, too.
Joey Votto led the sixth with a walk and with one out Eugenio Suarez singled, putting runners on second and first. Scott Schebler struck out. Scooter Gennett struck out. Still tied, 3-3.
Peraza bunted for a hit with one out in the seventh and stole second. But Hamilton flied out and Cozart, hitting .348 with two strikes, struck out. Still tied, 3-3.
Toronto manager John Gibbons appeared to give the Reds a break when he rested regulars Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar, but the Reds couldn’t take advantage.
The Reds struck out 14 times and were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
And for the second straight game, Cincinnati native and Wright State product Joe Smith had a hand in preserving Toronto’s victory.
He pitched the eighth and went 1-2-3, striking out Votto and Suarez, who failed to drive in a run on the now-completed nine-game trip during which the Reds went 4-and-5. Votto is 0 for 4 with three strikeouts for his career against Smith.
ADLEMAN WAS CREDITED with a quality start, something rare these days for the Reds. He pitched six innings and gave up three runs, six hits, walked two and struck out five.
But for the second straight game a late-inning two-run home run against the Reds’ bullpen did them in. Michael Lorenzen gave up a two-run home run in the eighth inning Tuesday to Kendrys Morales when it was 4-4, the winning runs in a 6-4 Jays victory. And Peralta was victimized by Devon Travis.
The Reds finished May with a 13-15 record and after an off day Thursday they open a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves and former teammate Brandon Phillips Friday night.