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09/11/11 7:03 PM ET

Baker eager to finish season above .500

DENVER -- Dusty Baker is in his 18th season as a Major League manager, and has done everything from winning a pennant with the 2002 San Francisco Giants to finishing last with the 2006 Chicago Cubs.

In a career that has included 1,476 wins and 1,359 losses, there have been 11 winning seasons and seven losing seasons. And as this one winds to its conclusion, Baker definitely wants it to be his 12th on the plus side of .500 -- as opposed to the alternative.

"It means a lot. I don't like losing," Baker said. "I've had some losing seasons, and I don't like that feeling. You have to get some consolation out of this season. It's a long season to walk away with nothing."

The Reds (71-75) currently are heading for their third losing season in four under Baker -- the exception being last year's 91-71, NL Central-winning finish.

They return home for 10 games, and will finish with six on the road. Of those remaining 16 games, only three are against a team with a winning record (Milwaukee, Sept.16-18).

Since the Reds fell out of contention, Baker has been balancing the desire to win with giving the Reds' younger players an opportunity far from the pennant chase. On Sunday, for instance, veteran Ramon Hernandez was behind the plate for Edinson Volquez's first Major League start since July 5th, and Edgar Renteria started at shortstop, while Chris Valaika and Todd Frazier started at second and third base, respectively.

"I was a September call-up kid, and I was a veteran," Baker said. "I understand the needs and wants of both. I try to balance that the best I can. There's no perfect solution.

"Everybody plays on my team. I think that's why we have some of the best stats pinch-hitting. Everybody gets at-bats. Nobody sits around too long."

Phillips having success in leadoff role

DENVER -- By any measure, the Brandon Phillips-as-leadoff hitter experiment has been a great success. But for Sunday's series finale against the Rockies, Phillips began the game on the bench.

"Just a day [off]," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I talked to him about it after [Saturday's] game. He's been playing a lot; he's been on base a lot. What's he hitting in the leadoff spot -- about .400? That's a lot of running around on the bases. He looked a little weary [on Saturday]. And it's a good time to see [Chris] Valaika at second base, too.

Since moving to the top of the batting order on Aug. 17, Phillips has hit safely in 21 of 23 games, and batted .354 (35 for 99) with eight doubles, one triple, one home run and 11 RBIs.

As for Phillips' future in that lineup spot, Baker was non-committal.

"It depends on if you can get something better [in the offseason]," Baker said. "It depends on if [Drew] Stubbs can cut down on the strikeouts. It depends on [Phillips'] contract. Until the contract is signed, you don't have a contract."

Phillips is in the final year of a four-year, $27-million deal, but the Reds hold a $12-million option on him for 2012, and are expected to exercise it.

Stubbs, who was back in the leadoff spot on Sunday, entered the game with 187 strikeouts in 559 at-bats.

Valaika has up and down afternoon

DENVER -- Chris Valaika made the most of an opportunity to start at second base, raising his batting average to .280 (7 for 25) by lining singles in his two at-bats against Rockies rookie left-hander Drew Pomeranz.

But on the second hit -- a fifth-inning single up the middle -- Valaika strained his right knee, and left the game after trying to play defense in the bottom of the inning. He will be reevaluated by team physicians on Monday, and is day-to-day.

"I hurt it on the swing; my spikes got caught," Valaika said. "I felt it out there playing defense. With [Edinson Volquez] throwing such a good game, I didn't want to take any chances."

Worth noting

• Joey Votto homered for the second game in a row -- a ninth-inning solo blast off of Jason Hammel for the Reds' only run. Of Votto's 28 homers, 15 have come on the road

• Chris Heisey finished a productive series at Coors Field with a triple to right-center in the seventh -- his first triple of the season. Heisey had a two-homer game on Saturday, his third of the season

• Logan Ondrusek's struggles since returning from the disabled list continued on Sunday, when he allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits in two innings. He has allowed two runs in three of his four appearances since returning on Aug. 25.

Tony DeMarco is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.