WASHINGTON -- The Reds' profound hitting skid to start the season has felt infinite to frustrated fans. For the hitters actually going through it, it hasn't been fun either. But they have optimism that it will end."I personally know we're going to hit," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said on Sunday morning. "We always hit. In my opinion, it's better to do this now than in July or August. We absolutely have to do a better job, and that's the bottom line. With the exception of a few guys, no one is really hitting." Cincinnati entered Sunday's game vs. the Nationals batting .191 as a team, including .138 with runners in scoring position. Bruce had three home runs through the team's first three games, but the team came into the series finale homerless in the previous six games. The individual batting averages have been low from key hitters. Scott Rolen entered batting .111; Ryan Ludwick was batting .150, and Bruce had dipped to .235. Reds manager Dusty Baker gave center fielder Drew Stubbs, batting .147, the day off from the lineup and started Chris Heisey, who came in hitting .188. The club's best hitter, first baseman Joey Votto, is batting .290, and believed that the team's good hitters will eventually rise to the level of their track records. "Whenever we start being like ourselves, we're one of the best offenses in the National League," Votto said. "We've got a choice. We can either panic through this whole thing, or be determined and continue to grind through and treat this as a nice early-season challenge that we'll overcome, and let the season play out. We'll prep for the rest of the season, and not today's shortcomings." One bright side during the Reds' skid -- the pitching staff had a 2.81 ERA over the previous five games. However, their record was 1-4. "We've played solid defense, I think, and have been pitching well," Votto said. "We're not hitting near where people expect. At some point, it will come around. If not, then oomph, poor Reds fans." Bruce didn't think it would come to do that. "It's still early," he said. "I don't think you can win or lose the season in the first couple of weeks. You can obviously put yourself in a better position."
Phillips returns to lineup for DC finale
WASHINGTON -- Following a five-game stretch out of the starting lineup because of a cramp in his left hamstring, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was back on Sunday vs. the Nationals.Phillips was 1-for-4 in the Reds' 8-5, 11-inning win, but clearly wasn't 100 percent. On a sacrifice bunt in the seventh, he stopped running hard halfway down the line. He said he didn't aggravate the injury, however. "When I was pushing, I felt it grab and decided I should take my time for a little bit," Phillips said. "In the field, I had forgotten all about it." Phillips also hit a one-out double in the ninth inning and could not run at full speed. He was lifted for pinch-runner Wilson Valdez as a precaution. Phillips was in his customary leadoff spot, after manager Dusty Baker initially considered batting him further down in the order. He was thinking about preserving his legs from running, a usual requisite for the top spot. "With [Nationals starter Ross] Detwiler being left-handed, we probably won't try to steal that much anyway," Baker said before the game. "He has a pretty good move. [Phillips] is the best candidate. I talked to [Phillips] about it and he said he'd rather bat leadoff. I told him to not do anything excessive." Without Phillips, who pinch-hit once on Friday and struck out, the Reds lost four of their previous five games. "We need an igniter in that position, and he's it," Baker said pregame. "He hits well against left-handers, so everything pointed towards Brandon."
Reds being cautious with ailing Cairo
WASHINGTON -- Reds utility infielder Miguel Cairo remained day to day Sunday with a strained left hamstring. Cairo was injured trying to score from second base in the second inning on Saturday vs. the Nationals."It's tight, but it's less sore than yesterday. It's a good sign," Cairo said. "The strength is good. Maybe it was just a cramp, or the muscle was trying to protect something." The Reds are holding off on considering a roster move regarding Cairo. They have a scheduled off-day on Monday before continuing the road trip in St. Louis. "We've got today and tomorrow before we have to make a decision," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday.
Reds honor Jackie on 65th anniversary of debut
WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday, the 65th anniversary of the day the Brooklyn Dodgers' great broke the color barrier and integrated the game.Beginning a tradition started by former Reds star Ken Griffey Jr. in 2007, all uniformed personnel in the league donned Robinson's No. 42. That included Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. "It's an #HONOR 2 wear #42 on my back 4#JackieRobinson Day! Thank u AGAIN 4 changing the world & letting me LIVE MY DREAM!" Phillips posted on Twitter before Sunday's game.