Battle for first place

Even if it’s only May — no reason to turn a nose at going for first place.

Sunday lineup vs. STL

Cabrera 6
Phillips 4
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Stubbs 8
Hanigan 2
Arroyo 1


Normally Dusty Baker would rest some regulars, namely Scott Rolen, for a day game after a night game. With the Cardinals in town, there was no chance that was happening.

“This is different times,” Baker said.

There are three lefties in the Cardinals lineup. Lefties are batting .301 vs. Arroyo this season, compared to .198 for right-handers.

*With his perfect seventh last night, Arthur Rhodes has 14-straight scoreless appearances and a 0.60 ERA through 16 games. Nick Masset’s perfect eighth with two K’s gave him six-straight scoreless outings — not bad considering the rough patch he had last month. Masset was chucking at 96 mph against both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

“When we keep them rested and strong, you see how sharp they are and how good their velocity is,” Baker said. “That’s the secret. Just keep them fresh. It’s not that easy to do sometimes because games dictate everything. They’re throwing the ball pretty good.”

Keeping them fresh will be a tougher order with the Reds in only their third game Sunday of a 20-game stretch without an off day.

“These extended streaks like this – I think this is the longest this year – really tax your bullpen if you have a couple of short starts,” Baker said. You tend to go long with your starters during these periods here because you’ll wear your bullpen, especially at the start of the streak. You can put yourself in a position to lose games.”

Also — when asked if Laynce Nix was available today, Baker’s response was “can’t tell you.” Nix appears to have something related to back spasms.

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