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HOU@STL: Wainwright fans 12 in five-hit shutout

With the Reds striving to keep the defending World Series champions at bay in the National League Central, they'll have to overcome one of the toughest assignments for any offense around these days in order to do so Sunday.

Adam Wainwright, coming off a five-hit shutout in his last appearance, will be on the case to help the second-place Cardinals try and pick up a game on the division-leading Reds, now up by seven games after Saturday's victory. He'll be matched with Homer Bailey in a battle of right-handers in another key NL Central matchup.

Wainwright's recent dominance isn't limited to just his last start, a defeat of Houston in which he struck out 12. The right-hander hasn't given up more than two earned runs in a start since July 13, a span of seven starts. He sports a 1.16 ERA over his last four starts.

"That's as dominant as you can get," Skip Schumaker said. "We need that ace, and he's our ace. Enough hasn't been said about our pitching. Offensively, we've missed some chances with some really good starts. That's a little frustrating. But our pitching has been unbelievable, and he's our ace. It's good to see that he's taken over that spot."

Bailey enters the matchup with Wainwright coming off his first strong outing in a month. After working out some mechanics with pitching coach Bryan Price, Bailey lasted into the seventh inning in a no-decision against the Phillies.

"We knew it was there. I was feeling fine. I was like a hitter who has a glitch in their swing or any athlete that has a glitch in their mechanics," Bailey said.

Cardinals: Freese, Molina day to day
Two Cardinals regulars were out Saturday with injuries currently considered day-to-day ailments, as third baseman David Freese had a day off after taking a pitch and then a grounder off his left wrist and Yadier Molina was out with a sore ankle.

Manager Mike Matheny said Freese's hand hurt even putting his glove on afterward, so letting that calm down was a no-brainer.

"We're going to wait and watch him do his work in the cage and see if he can get it figured out," said Matheny, who started Matt Carpenter at third Saturday.

Molina, meanwhile, already had played four games on the sore ankle, so a day's respite, at least, was in order. He's taking the situation day by day.

"He's been pushing through," Matheny said.

Reds: Votto's DL stay about over
There continued to be positive signs that first baseman Joey Votto is on his way back to the active roster. He's been on the disabled list since July 16 following knee surgery, but he's been taking batting practice and has gone through all the necessary baseball activities, giving the Reds reason to believe he'll be back in the lineup shortly.

"He came out good so far," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Votto's Friday workout. "He's getting very, very close."

Worth noting
• The Reds took a 6-5 lead in the 15-game season series against the Cardinals, and they won't be back on the field together until the last series of the year in St. Louis, Oct. 1-3.

• The Reds head to Arizona for a three-game set with the D-backs after Sunday's finale, and the Cardinals continue their 10-game road trip with a visit to Pittsburgh, the team behind them in the NL Central. Comments