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MIL@CIN: Latos strikes out 13 in complete-game gem

When the books are written on the 2012 baseball season, no one will remember who was in first place at the end of June.

That said, there isn't anywhere else the Reds and Giants would rather be when the season wraps up its third month Saturday.

When the two clubs meet in the third game of a four-game set at AT&T Park in San Francisco, they will each be looking to build on a one-game division lead -- the Giants in the National League West over Los Angeles and the Reds in the NL Central over Pittsburgh.

Barry Zito gets the ball for the Giants, coming off one of his best starts this season in which he allowed just three hits while shutting out the Dodgers for seven innings.

But the veteran left-hander has been hot and cold this season, and there doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason. In three of his last seven starts he didn't last past the fifth, allowing at least five runs in all of them. But in another three of those starts, he worked at least seven innings in each, while allowing a total of two runs.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted that in Zito's last time out, he was able to maximize his command, working around the plate, but not offering many hittable piches.

"I think he learned from his previous starts," Bochy said after the game. "He went from one end of the spectrum to the other."

Reds right-hander Mat Latos is also coming off one of the best outings of his career -- a 13-strikeout four-hitter against Milwaukee.

"No. 1, he had great command of his fastball and kept it down, which made it tough for them to stay off of his slider," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

"Players on Milwaukee said that was one of the best games pitched against them. They don't understand how his ERA is 5 after what they saw the other day. [Latos] told me he wasn't satisfied with having a 5 ERA."

Reds: Phillips back in lineup
Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips returned for Friday's game after missing Thursday's series opener with the effects of a concussion. He went 1-for-5.

Before returning, Phillips had to pass the SCAT 2 concussion test, which monitors balance, speech and memory. Head athletic trainer Paul Lessard said Phillips' symptoms weren't severe enough for a DL stint.

"He got 100 today and got a 90 yesterday," Baker said Friday, speaking about Phillips' tests. "He was trying hard to lobby to get back in the lineup. As long as he passed the test and the trainer said it was OK, that's all it took."

• It seems first baseman Joey Votto is always hot. But streaks like the one he's had since May 25 are rare, even for the 2010 MVP.

During that time, Votto leads the league in batting average (.430), on-base percentage (.515) and slugging percentage (.754).

Giants: Penny joins 'pen
With Shane Loux headed to the DL (strained neck), the Giants purchased the contract of two-time All-Star Brad Penny from Triple-A Fresno.

The 34-year-old Penny joins the Giants' bullpen after seven appearances for Fresno, giving up five earned runs in 8 1/3 innings pitched. After spending the majority of his 12 big league seasons as a starter, Penny will have to adjust to his relief role.

"It's definitely going to be different and it's going to be something I'm going to have to learn as I go along, but I'm looking forward to it," Penny said.

• Right-hander Loux, who had allowed eight earned runs in 16 innings, was placed on the DL with a strained neck, and Bochy said he was unsure how long Loux would be out.

"He's doing better, but at the same time it looks like he's going to be down two, three, four days, if not longer," Bochy said. "It's hard to say how long it's going to be."

Worth noting
• The current hitters on the Giants roster are batting a combined .215 against Latos. Among Giants with seven or more plate appearances against the Cincinnati righty, only Buster Posey is hitting above .250. Posey is 3-for-10 with a homer.

• With Friday night's victory, Baker improved his record to 8-7 against the Giants as manager of the Reds. Baker managed the Giants to the NL pennant in 2002.

• Phillips is batting .412 with four walks against Zito in 17 at-bats.

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