CINCINNATI (AP) — Manny Ramirez went down watching.
Right-hander Homer Bailey gave the best performance of his career, holding the NL's top team scoreless for eight innings, and the Cincinnati Reds survived a wild ninth inning that ended with Ramirez striking out, sealing a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
The Reds won their season-high fifth straight game and remained the NL's only unbeaten team when leading after eight innings, improving to 48-0. This one nearly busted the streak.
Bailey (4-4) allowed seven singles and had a career-high seven strikeouts while going eight innings for the first time in his career. The 23-year-old talked manager Dusty Baker into letting him pitch out of a threat in the eighth, when he retired Ramirez on a fly ball and fanned Casey Blake with two runners aboard.
"I wanted to see the look on his face," Baker said. "I wanted to see his eyes. If I didn't see what I wanted, I was going to get him. He said, 'Hey, man, I really want to get him.'"
Once Bailey left, things got crazy.
James Loney led off the ninth with a homer off Nick Masset, who turned it over to closer Francisco Cordero, pitching for the fourth straight day.
Cordero let the Dodgers load the bases with two outs on a walk and two singles. Andre Ethier then swung at a pitch in the dirt that would have been strike three, but the ball skittered away, letting Ethier reach on a wild pitch as a run scored.
Up came Ramirez with yet another chance.
He took a called third strike on the outside corner to end it. Ramirez has gone seven straight games without an extra-base hit, and has only one — a double — in his last 13 games.
"There's no question we need him," manager Joe Torre said. "That's the responsibility he's had for years. Right now, he's just a little out of whack."
Jonny Gomes had an RBI single and a solo homer off Chad Billingsley (12-8), who lasted five-plus innings in another disappointing performance. Billingsley has failed to go six innings in five of his last nine starts, going 3-4 over that span.
"It's definitely frustrating when you're not pitching well late in the season," Billingsley said. "I've just got to keep trying to figure something out."
The Dodgers took two of three in Colorado, their closest pursuer in the NL West, then headed to Cincinnati to play an injury-ravaged team on its best stretch of another lost season. Torre wondered before the game whether there might be a bit of a letdown for the Dodgers coming off their big series against the Rockies.
Then, he watched his team play a few listless innings before getting its chances late.
"We were flat," Torre said. "We caught a little lightning in the bottle at the end."
History was on their side. The Dodgers are 20-4 against the Reds since 2006, their best record against any NL team, and had already pounded Bailey once this season. He got knocked around when he pitched at Dodger Stadium on July 21, giving up a career-high nine runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 12-3 loss.
This time, the Dodgers acted like they'd never seen him before.
A turning point came in the sixth, when Bailey — prone to having one bad inning — gave up opening singles by Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp. He handled the heart of the order by getting a strikeout and two fly balls, including a routine one to right by Ramirez.
"The fastball was there," Bailey said. "That's what has been working the last couple of games."
By contrast, Billingsley was in trouble most of the time. Gomes singled home a run in the second, and Drew Stubbs drove in another with a broken-bat single in the third. He came around on Joey Votto's double. Billingsley escaped a bases-loaded threat in the fifth, but left the game after Gomes led off the sixth with a homer, his third hit of the game.
NOTES: Dodgers RHP Hiroki Kuroda will throw a simulated game Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Kuroda went on the DL after being hit in the head by a line drive Aug. 15. ... The Reds played a videoboard tribute and held a moment of silence for William J. Williams Sr., a former team owner who died during the week. ... The Reds plan to call up LHP Matt Maloney from Triple-A Louisville to start Saturday's game.