05/17/2013 12:36 AM ET
Phillips closing in on Morgan's Reds records
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Joe Morgan is widely regarded as one of the game's greatest second basemen, but Brandon Phillips is gaining on the Hall of Famer in the Reds' record books.
Phillips entered Thursday night's series finale with the Marlins one double shy of Morgan's record of 220 for Cincinnati second basemen. The 32-year-old never could have imagined being statistically in the same class as the legendary Morgan.
"I never thought about something like that. It's an honor or I've been over here too long. It's one of the two," Phillips joked.
A two-time All-Star, Phillips has a long way to go to catch the Hall of Famer Morgan in trips to the Midsummer Classic. But Phillips has already surpassed Morgan in hits, 1,205 to 1,155.
After belting a homer and driving in two runs in Thursday's 5-3 win over the Marlins, Phillips trails Morgan by three homers and 13 RBIs. Barring something unforeseen, the current Reds second baseman will own most of Morgan's Reds records by the end of this season.
"I always try to be the best player I can be," Phillips said. "I try to be better than Joe Morgan. He's always told me, 'Try to be better than me.' That's hard to do, because he's the best second baseman to ever play this game. I respect him dearly, but I'm going to go out there and play the game and try to break his records."
Phillips has been a force for the Reds this season. The veteran leads the National League with 36 RBIs. Phillips enjoys hitting cleanup for the Reds, and he hopes to continue his run production in the middle of their order.
"When a guy gets in scoring position, I try to focus a little bit more," Phillips said. "I wish I could focus more when no one is on base, but I really try to get those guys in once they get into scoring position. My goal is to get 100 RBIs, and that came up once they put me in the four spot. My job is to drive people in. I don't worry about my on-base percentage or my batting average. I just want to drive guys in, and I've been successful so far. Hopefully I can keep it up."
Chapman uses slider to finish off rookie, Fish
MIAMI -- Aroldis Chapman closed out the Marlins on Wednesday night, but the hard-throwing lefty had to work hard to get the final three outs.
It took 26 pitches for Chapman to get through the ninth inning in a non-save situation in Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Marlins. Two Marlins reached base in the ninth, but the most impressive feat may have come from rookie Derek Dietrich.
Playing in just his fifth game in the big leagues, Dietrich forced Chapman to throw 10 pitches, including seven that traveled at least 100 mph, before striking out to end the game.
"He looked great in that at-bat," Chapman said. "Showed a lot of fight and poise in that spot. It was definitely a good trip to the plate."
Chapman topped out at 102 mph before freezing Dietrich on an 87-mph slider. The Reds closer was hoping to fool Dietrich after the rookie fouled off seven fastballs.
"I had thrown him two sliders earlier, but they were out of the zone, so I went back to the fastball and he kept fighting it," Chapman said. "I decided to try and surprise him with a slider inside. I went for it and was fortunate to catch him off guard."
Dietrich has impressed Chapman and several others in the Cincinnati dugout this series. The rookie has collected four hits over the first two games of the series, and his battle with one of the best closers in baseball caught the eye of Reds manager Dusty Baker.
"Dietrich looks like a good hitter," Baker said following Wednesday's game. "He certainly wasn't intimidated by Chapman throwing 100. Chapman got the better of him tonight, but he fouled off some tough pitches up in the zone. Most people don't catch up to those. It was a very good at-bat."
Baker discusses Reds' injuries, perseverance
MIAMI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker addressed several different topics before Thursday's series finale against the Marlins.
Baker, who has helped guide the Reds to another strong start despite dealing with several injuries early on, touched on Chris Heisey's status, saying the outfielder returned to Cincinnati to be evaluated. Heisey re-aggravated a hamstring injury playing in a rehab game on Monday with Class A Pensacola.
"Heisey went back to see the doctor," Baker said. "I haven't heard anything else. He's going to be out a little while longer. We had hoped to get him back, because we are left-handed strong on the bench and in the field."
Baker also touched on how the Reds have managed to stay within striking distance of the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central. Just 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis entering Thursday, Cincinnati is doing exactly what Baker hoped.
"If you're in second or third place, you need to stay in the rearview mirror," Baker said. "You want to be seen when they look in the mirror. You don't want them to look and not see anybody. It's like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 'They're still there, chasing.' That's what you want if you're behind."
Despite being pleased with how his team has played while battling several key injuries, Baker knows the Reds will need to fight hard to stay in the top part of the division.
"I've seen the Cardinals run off before, so I know what they can do," Baker said. "But I've seen us run off before and I know we can do it. If anybody in this league and division knows how to run off with a lead, it's the Cardinals."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.