CINCINNATI -- Utility player Miguel Cairo started his third consecutive game at first base Friday with Joey Votto out again with a stiff neck. Cairo has made the most of his opportunity, going 5-for-9 with a homer and three runs scored in the past two games.

"You want to contribute and do the little things that help the team win games," Cairo said. "You don't play every day, so when one of the big boys, the regulars, gets a day or something happens to them, you've got to be ready to go out there and help the team."

Friday marked Cairo's fourth start of the season at first base, a position he hadn't previously played since 2008 with the Mariners. Of his 727 career games in 15 seasons, 131 have been at first base.

"That's why you try to put your bench together the way you do -- for times like these," manager Dusty Baker said. "You know things are going to happen through the course of the year. You hate it to happen to one of your better players. You try to cover yourself at as many positions as you can. Cairo, he covers us at three or four positions."

Cairo raised his average to .262 entering Friday, but it was as low as .100 on May 4, when the 36-year-old played sparingly. He's been a role player for most of his 14 big league seasons, and it can be a challenging job.

"It's something you have to be mentally prepared to do," Cairo said. "I always try to get myself prepared for that inning or that start."

Gomes getting job done with runners on

CINCINNATI -- Entering Friday's play, if he wanted to, Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes could jump on top of the dugout railing and proclaim to the world that he was the most clutch player in the National League.

Gomes wouldn't actually do that, but if he did, it would be a correct statement. He came in batting .419 (13-for-31) with runners in scoring position -- tied with Ryan Braun for best in the NL. He came awfully close to hitting for the cycle during Friday's 15-6 win over the Astros, coming up a double short during a 4-for-4 night with a walk.

"I think that's why [general manager] Walt [Jocketty] brought me back, to have a guy in this lineup that can do that," said Gomes, who had three homers and 24 RBIs with RISP, before Friday's game. "Later in my career, I actually value how important that at-bat is with runners in scoring position, and with two outs. In the past, I really didn't value that two-out RBI in the game."

With runners in scoring position and two outs, Gomes is batting .583 (7-for-12).

In 42 games, Gomes is batting .316 with seven home runs and is second on the team with 32 RBIs. He came into the night batting .361 in May, which was best in the NL.

During Spring Training, Gomes said that manager Dusty Baker talked with him about the importance of coming through in run-producing situations.

"You try to separate yourself, that's really what it is -- those RBIs, those two-out RBIs, extending the inning, possibly getting that lineup rolled over," Gomes said. "It's definitely something I'm really focused on."

It's one thing to focus, another to execute, which Gomes has done by improving his pitch selection and paying attention to details like if first base is open or who is hitting behind him.

"I'm really trying to put the whole sandwich together in that RBI situation, where we are in the game," he said. "I'm really focused and learning that it's not just another at-bat. I'm just trying to get that guy in."

The last Reds player to hit for the cycle was Eric Davis against the Padres on June 2, 1989. Atypically, Gomes took care of the most difficult of hits first when he hit a RBI triple off of the right-field wall in the first inning against Wandy Rodriguez. In the third inning with one out and a runner on second, Gomes slugged his seventh homer of the season with a two-run shot into the first row of seats in left field, which made it a 5-2 Reds lead.

Gomes walked in the fourth and fisted an inside pitch on the ground into right field for an RBI single in the sixth. In the seventh, he lined a base hit into left field and had designs on hustling for the double. But with inexperienced base runner and reliever Mike Lincoln stopping at second base, Gomes had to settle for a single.

"You know those pitchers and hitters, always find a way to butt heads," joked Gomes after the game. "That's the last of the worries we've got going on, trying to get me a cycle. I will take the win over a cycle any day, that's the truth."

Votto out for third game in a row

CINCINNATI -- A stiff neck has put Reds first baseman Joey Votto out of the lineup for the third consecutive game on Friday. The injury wasn't originally believed to be too serious, but the question was raised to manager Dusty Baker whether Votto might have to be placed on the disabled list. It didn't seem likely.

"I don't know. I ain't no doctor. I hope not," Baker said. "I hope it's just a stiff neck. It was better yesterday than the day before. We'll wait as long as we can."

Del Rosario optioned to Triple-A Louisville

CINCINNATI -- To make room for Friday's starting pitcher, Sam LeCure, who was called up from Triple-A Louisville, the Reds optioned reliever Enerio Del Rosario to Louisville. Del Rosario came up Monday when starter Homer Bailey was placed on the disabled list.

In two appearances, totaling one inning, Del Rosario allowed one run, two hits and a walk with one strikeout. The sidearm throwing right-hander worked the seventh inning of Thursday's win over the Pirates.

"I liked what I saw," manager Dusty Baker said. "I liked him in Spring Training. He's on the fast track. He has a devastating sinker. He has to work on his secondary pitches. If he gets those together, he should be in the big leagues quite a while. There's always room for a sinkerballer, but you have to have more than a sinker working."