BALTIMORE -- Reds manager Bryan Price hoped that a radical change of the cast of characters in his lineup Thursday might bring a reversal of fortunes. While it produced with more gusto, the final outcome proved familiar.
A 9-7 Reds loss to the Orioles meant being swept in the three-game series while completing a 1-5 road trip. Following early deficits of 6-0 and 7-2, the Reds battled back to make it a 7-7 game in the top of the seventh inning, leaving Price as pleased as he could be in the context of a loss.
"I'm really proud of the way the guys came back. There were some big at-bats in the game," Price said. "After a while you get really tired of trying to suck silver linings out of losses. That part of it is hard. There was definitely some fun and exciting things to watch, entertaining things to watch."
The bullpen could not keep it even as Baltimore scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh on J.J. Hardy's two-out, two-run single off reliever Sam LeCure with the bases loaded.
"I didn't make a good enough pitch. I wasn't sharp. I wasn't commanding the count, getting ahead with those first-pitch strikes. That came back and cost us," LeCure said. "The way things have been going, it's really tough because we did battle back. We had an opportunity to keep it going, and had a little momentum going. I just couldn't stop the bleeding."
On the heels of Wednesday's 6-0 defeat to Baltimore, Price's lineup on Thursday featured only two regular players in Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco. Five of the starters in the series finale were September callups.
Frazier and debuting rookie Yorman Rodriguez were the only ones hitless vs. Baltimore. The other mainstay -- Mesoraco -- was responsible for much of the offense with a 4-for-4 game and four RBIs that helped get Cincinnati back in a game after it seemed out of hand early.
"You've got to keep going and try to do your job to the best of your ability," Mesoraco said. "You can't get down. You can't get frustrated too much. It obviously is frustrating. You can't give up. You just go out there, try to put together good at-bats and a good inning and see what happens."
The Orioles lineup pounded on Reds starter Mike Leake quickly, especially with thunderous two-out hitting. Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer on a first pitch and four batters later with another run in, Nick Hundley's three-run homer to left field made it 6-0. In the fourth inning, Jonathan Schoop slugged his third homer in three nights with a shot to left field for a 7-2 score.
In three games, the Orioles hit seven homers including six the last two nights.
"The one thing that impressed the heck out of me with the Orioles is they took advantage of mistakes," Price said. "If you gave them a mistake, they did damage and it was extra-base damage, it was doubles and homers. That was very impressive. I hate to say it; they were very impressive in how they hit our mistakes."
Leake was gone after four innings with seven runs, seven hits, one walk and two strikeouts. He tied a career high with three homers allowed while pitching his shortest game since Sept. 24, 2013, vs. the Mets -- his final start of last season. Against Orioles starter Chris Tillman, the Reds rallied to load the bases with one out in the third inning and came away with two runs without a hit. Frazier drew a walk to force a run in and Mesoraco hit a sacrifice fly to center field.
Leading off the sixth against Tillman, Mesoraco hit a 2-2 pitch to left field for his 21st homer of the season. The bases were loaded again with Reds in the seventh against reliever Brad Brach. After a two-out wild pitch to Mesoraco scored Tucker Barnhart, Mesoraco followed with a two-run double to left field. It became a tie game on Donald Lutz's RBI single up the middle against Tommy Hunter.
"We just kind of chipped away, chipped away and then we had the big inning there," Mesoraco said. "They came back and did what good teams do. They found a way to tack on a couple of extra runs and make it even tougher on us."