CINCINNATI -- The meatloaf still tasted good to Joe Maddon on Sunday. Even though the Rays took a 12-4 loss to the Reds, they claimed the three-game series.
"Meatloaf is still meatloaf," the Rays manager said. "But chateaubriand would have been nice."
The Reds' bats made sure the Rays would not get the three-game sweep when they erupted during the afternoon affair at Great American Ball Park.
Several times a year, Maddon says "meatloaf" -- specifically, "two-out-of-three ain't bad" -- to rationalize about gaining a series win without nailing down the sweep, which would have been chateaubriand. Nice words, but after allowing just one run in the first two games of the series, the Rays hoped to board their charter for Baltimore with their first sweep of the season.
Instead, the loss moved the Rays to 7-6 on the season and 3-3 on the current nine-game road trip.
"We're playing well," Maddon said. "We just have to start hitting with more consistency. We did not pitch that well today."
If good karma is any indication of things to come, the Rays should have taken Sunday's game going away after the Reds ran themselves out of a big inning in the second.
Cesar Ramos started for the Rays, making his first start since 2012, and he surrendered a bases-loaded double to Zack Cozart with one out in the inning. The Rays got a break when the ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double, otherwise the blast likely would have emptied the bases.
The Reds still had runners on second and third when Tony Cingrani stepped to the plate. Maddon elected to play his infield in, and the strategy paid off when the Reds' starter grounded to Yunel Escobar. The Rays' shortstop threw a strike to catcher Ryan Hanigan, who tagged out Devin Mesoraco. Hanigan then threw to Escobar to catch Cingrani in a rundown between first and second.
Once first baseman Sean Rodriguez received the ball, he wisely opted to throw home when he saw Cozart breaking for the plate. Hanigan applied the tag to complete the inning-ending 6-2-4-3-2 double play.
"We've been playing well," Maddon said. "That was a great job by the middle. The rundown with Logan Forsythe and Rodriguez to the plate was outstanding. Hanigan handled everything perfectly. We did everything really well with that. ... Keep this game close and I thought we'd have a better offensive day."
More positive vibes came the Rays' way when Ben Zobrist tied the game at 2 with a two-run homer off Cingrani in the top of the third, but Joey Votto answered for the Reds in the bottom of the third with a 452-foot homer off Ramos that put the Reds up 4-2 and chased Ramos.
Ramos allowed four runs on three hits and three walks in two-plus innings.
"It's a good lineup, and falling behind, you try to miss some bats, that's what I tried to do and maybe I nibbled just a little too much on the corners," Ramos said. "Didn't get those and fell behind."
Brandon Gomes took over for Ramos, and the bleeding continued when Mesoraco clubbed a 443-foot, three-run homer to give the Reds a 7-2 lead. Gomes had not allowed a run in five previous appearances this season.
Cingrani picked up the win after holding the Rays to two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six in 6 1/3 innings.
"We put some runs on the board there early and kept adding on, which was good, and Tony gave us what we needed," Mesoraco said.
Zobrist added a two-run homer in the seventh off Nick Christiani, this one came from the left side of the plate after his first one came while hitting right-handed.
"Very cool, yeah," said Zobrist, noting that he'd never homered from both sides of the plate at any level. "...Wish the circumstances were a little different. But it's still pretty cool to be able to say I did that in a Major League game."
The last Reds opponent to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game was San Francisco's Randy Winn on Aug. 30, 2008, at Great American Ball Park off pitchers Ramon Ramirez and Bill Bray.
Normally Maddon tells his guys to file away a victory or a defeat after 30 minutes. Sunday, he said they should file it away after 30 seconds.
"They had a three-run homer and a four-run homer today, it's hard to beat those," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.