Trailing Cincinnati since the first inning Monday night, the Houston Astros needed someone to get something going at the plate.
Chris Johnson answered the call, going 4-for-5 with an RBI for his fifth career four-hit game and second this season.
The Astros' problem, however, was that no one else came through, leaving the team to play catch-up all night in what deteriorated into an 8-3 loss to the Reds, who won their fifth straight.
"We want to win the game; it doesn't matter how many hits I get if we don't get a win," Johnson said. "We're trying not to believe in personal goals around here and just trying to turn this thing around, so I'd rather take an 0-for for a win."
The Astros got within a run of the Reds thanks to a two-run fifth inning that featured an RBI double by Johnson.
But the bullpen collapse the Astros endured in the seventh and eighth innings — when four relievers combined to give up five runs — sabotaged any chance at a comeback and left the stands virtually empty.
The result, the Astros' seventh straight loss and 10th in 11 games since the All-Star break, handed Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez yet another loss in what could have been one of the left-hander's final outings in an Astros uniform.
Rodriguez, the Astros' lone holdover from their 2005 World Series team, has reportedly drawn interest from several teams ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
Moreover, Houston has not been shy about trading players, including first baseman Carlos Lee, left-hander J.A. Happ and, as recently as Saturday, closer Brett Myers.
Astros bullpen coach Doug Brocail said last week that he believed the trade rumors were distracting Rodriguez.
"I have no control of that," Rodriguez said. "I don't know what's going to happen with me, so I only wait. I don't know what decision the organization (is going to make). When the game starts, (I focus) on throwing the quality pitch. That's all I have control of."
Rodriguez admitted keeping that focus wasn't easy.
"For me, I have been with this organization for a long time, so if the team trades me, it's my first time," Rodriguez said. "So it's hard for me."
Rodriguez (7-9) gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings for his fourth loss in five starts. He struck out six and walked three.
"He did a pretty good job of keeping us in the game through six innings," Astros manager Brad Mills said.
Rodriguez got off to a bumpy start, giving up three runs, six hits and three walks over the first three innings to put the Astros in a 3-0 deficit.
He settled down in the fourth, and the Astros got two runs back in the fifth, when Jose Altuve scored on a groundout by Scott Moore and Johnson doubled to center to score Marwin Gonzalez with one out.
The Astros could have inflicted more damage, loading the bases thanks in part to Matt Latos' intentional walk of Jordan Shafer with two outs.
But Chris Snyder followed with a popup to strand the runners and allow Latos (8-3) to leave the game with the lead en route to his first win since June 30.
"The second, fourth and fifth inning, we left the bases loaded," said Mills, whose team was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. "It seems like a lot of nights I come in and say, you know, if we'd gotten that one big hit. and it's coming. It's going to come at some point. But at least we got those opportunities."
Latos' gave up two earned runs and eight hits. He struck out three and walked two, both intentionally. He held Houston in check through the first four innings.
Latos appeared to hurt his left ankle after the pitch Johnson turned into the RBI double and left the game after the fifth. Reds manager Dusty Baker said he had a sprained left ankle, but Latos said he was fine after the game.
The Astros fell behind for good in the seventh.
Scott Rolen's one-out double to right off Wilton Lopez drove in Todd Frazier to give the Reds a 4-2 lead. Jay Bruce hit a two-out single off Wesley Wright later in the inning to extend Cincinnati's lead to three runs.
Ludwick's RBI single to center with one out in the eighth off Enerio Del Rosario made it 6-2.
And Frazier, who finished 3-for-6 with two RBIs, had an RBI double off Del Rosario to drive in Ludwick in the eighth then scored on a hit by Ryan Hanigan.
Frazier gave Cincinnati the early lead with an RBI single in the first inning. Ludwick and Chris Heisey both drove in a run in the third as the Reds made it 3-0.
NOTES: The series continues Tuesday night when Cincinnati's Mike Leake opposes rookie Lucas Harrell. ... Phillips is hitting .409 since the break. ... Bruce has 60 RBIs to lead the team.