Scheduled starter Edinson Volquez warmed up, but never threw a pitch after a rain delay of 2 hours and 10 minutes and the Reds had other miscues in a 4-2 loss to the NL Central rival Cardinals on Friday night. The Cardinals saved their starter, Kyle McClellan, for after the deluge.
"I think this is probably the worst loss we've had this year," Phillips said. "We just beat ourselves. The Cardinals, they're a great team, they did their job.
"But on our end, we just didn't come through. We've just got to be smarter. Today was just another learning experience."
McClellan worked six-plus innings after the Cardinals guessed correctly and used a substitute starter before a lengthy rain delay.
Albert Pujols had two RBIs and Ryan Theriot had three hits and scored twice for the Cardinals against a collection of relievers for the Reds, who ended up with Matt Maloney (0-1) as a substitute starter.
Phillips may be enemy No. 1 in St. Louis for his role in last season's Cards-Reds dustup in Cincinnati. But he couldn't help but compliment Cardinals manager Tony La Russa for making the call to save McClellan for after the rain.
"I was just like, 'Wow, that's pretty neat,'" Phillips said. "I give him two thumbs up, I really do. I give people credit when credit is due."
St. Louis stand-in starter Miguel Batista opened with a four-pitch walk to Drew Stubbs and threw two more pitches to Phillips before a fierce storm prompted tornado warning sirens at least three times brought the game to a halt.
Phillips homered and Stubbs had two hits and a steal for the Reds, who have lost seven of nine and fell a game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central while dropping out of first place for the first time. Phillips was booed mercilessly before each at-bat and pumped his fist in triumph after singling in the third, but kept his head down while sprinting around the bases after his second homer in the fifth.
Maloney faced 15 hitters in two-plus innings in his first start since July 11, 2010, at Philadelphia. He gave up eight hits and a walk, but left trailing only 3-0 because of some key outs, striking out Yadier Molina with the bases loaded to end the first and stranding two more runners in the second when Matt Holliday popped to center for the third out.
The Reds were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position against McClellan (3-0), who allowed two runs while scattering seven hits and two walks. This was technically the longest career relief outing for McClellan, a setup man last season who has held opponents to only three hits in 29 at-bats with runners in scoring position for the season.
Mitchell Boggs got the last four outs for his second save in two chances, finishing against the top of the Reds' order. Cincinnati had two men on with two outs in the eighth when catcher Molina caught Chris Heisey straying well off first with a pickoff throw, ending up with a tag-out of Miguel Cairo at third.
Rookie Eduardo Sanchez relieved McClellan with two on and no outs in the seventh and threw two wild pitches with a walk, but allowed only Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly.
The Reds threw out two Cardinals on the basepaths in the fifth, with right fielder Jay Bruce's perfect relay nipping Holliday at third and catcher Ramon Hernandez easily getting Molina trying to steal to end the inning.
Notes: RHP Jake Westbrook, 1-2 with a 9.82 ERA after four starts, is set to pitch on three days' rest Sunday night for the Cardinals. Westbrook gave up seven runs in three innings, his shortest outing since May 2, 2007, in a loss to the Nationals on Wednesday. ... Reds RHP Johnny Cueto (biceps-triceps) struggled in his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Louisville Thursday, allowing eight runs — five earned — on nine hits in 1 2-3 innings. Cueto is scheduled for another rehab start Tuesday. ... The Reds have allowed a major league-high 24 runs in the first inning, giving up 11 the last six games with at least one each game.