9/28/2013 7:39 P.M. ET
Baker brings perspective to offensive struggles
By Mark Sheldon and Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Like any Reds fan, Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Pirates was agonizing for manager Dusty Baker. In a game in which Baker said Cincinnati gave away runs, the Reds had just one at-bat with runners in scoring position, and it ended with a Homer Bailey groundout.
The offense has been in a funk throughout the homestand, scoring just six runs en route to a 1-3 record. Although Baker has been as frustrated as anybody, he tried to bring some perspective to the situation on Saturday.
"I've said it 100 times. It's not easy to sit over there and watch your team struggle to hit," Baker said. "But they say hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing in sports to do. And then they say that good pitching beat good hitting. And then when you don't hit, they ask why you're not hitting. That doesn't really make any sense if you think about those first two things."
Whether it's been the result of good pitching or not, the Reds' bats have gone relatively cold since winning five of six to close out their recent road trip before playing their final six games of the season at Great American Ball Park.
In the first four games of the homestand, Ryan Hanigan (3-for-7) and Shin-Soo Choo (6-for-16) were the only Reds with more than two hits. The offensive woes have plagued Joey Votto (2-for-12), Brandon Phillips (2-for-15) and Jay Bruce (1-for-15), who along witch Choo have been the most productive Cincinnati hitters this season in terms of average.
Hitting, Baker said, is all about adjustments, and after 160 games -- including 17 against the Pirates -- entering Saturday there has been plenty of chances for adjusting back and forth. Baker also added that the difference between a hit and an out can often be a matter of inches if guys are hitting balls right at people.
In an effort to get things rolling, Baker moved Ryan Ludwick into the two-hole on Friday, and he was there again for Saturday's game. Ultimately, though, Baker said now is not the time to be making wholesale changes in any regard, and it's key to remain confident the recent struggles will end before it's too late.
"You got to do the things that got you to this situation," Baker said, "because you know you're going to go through times when you're up and down -- especially offensively. ... There's a lot of factors in there."
Votto proud of club on-base record, playing every day
CINCINNATI -- Some players say they aren't aware of their numbers, and if they are, some don't care. Reds first baseman Joey Votto fits neither of those categories.
Votto is keenly aware he avoids outs better than most and places a premium on it. He knew he was approaching Pete Rose's 1969 club record for reaching base in a season via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch. With a pair of singles in Friday's 4-1 loss to the Pirates, Votto reached for the 311th and 312th time to break Rose's mark.
"I was really very excited and really happy about that achievement," Votto said Saturday morning. "It's a combination of playing every day, which is something Pete was very good at. I don't know if it's a skill or luck, a determination or personality trait, but whatever it was that helped him play every single day, he did that so consistently throughout his career. That was the first step. I played every day. The second was the ability to get on base, be competitive and not make outs. It's a difficult thing to do. To put that combination together, I'm very proud of it.
"This was a little different version of a baseball year for me offensively. But to have been rewarded with something like this, anytime you get mentioned with an all-time great like Pete Rose or Joe Morgan with the walks, I'm very proud of it, yes."
On Saturday, Votto added another Reds record. His first-inning walk gave him 133 for the season and moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, who had 132 walks in 1975.
Votto might get some National League MVP Award votes, yet he has received criticism in some circles this season for not having more RBIs. He entered Saturday with 73 RBIs and 24 home runs. But he leads the NL in walks, intentional walks and on-base percentage and was fifth in total hits and runs scored and 10th in batting.
"I've been probably asked more about my failings than my successes this year, which is kind of frustrating," Votto said. "I think it's a two-headed monster -- it's the lack of RBIs and also being compared to my previous self. I can understand people's perspective. They hope for the best for me. They want me to play my very, very best for the ballclub."
Assuming he plays the regular-season finale on Sunday, Votto will have played in all 162 games this season. The last Reds player to do that was Aaron Boone in 2002. Votto was limited to 111 games last season after missing about six weeks in the summer to rehab from a pair of arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee. At times when manager Dusty Baker looked to give Votto a day off, he would ask to be kept in the lineup.
"Despite my performance at times this year, I'm very proud of playing every day," Votto said. "I had two surgeries and I played every single day. That's something I think I owed to the Reds fans, I owed to management and the people signing my checks. I think I owed it, most importantly, to my teammates. I think playing every day is a sign of health and what I'd like to be about as a player."
X-rays negative, Phillips expects to play Tuesday
CINCINNATI -- X-rays on Brandon Phillips' left shin were negative after he was struck by a foul ball and exited Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Pirates in the fifth inning, and the Reds second baseman expects to be ready for Tuesday's Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh.
With the Reds trailing, 6-3, Phillips hit a 1-0 fastball from Charlie Morton directly into his lower left leg near the ankle. Phillips then backed out of the box and leaned on his bat in obvious pain, and TV cameras showed a noticeable bump where the ball made contact.
Head trainer Paul Lessard and manager Dusty Baker came out to check on Phillips, who finished the at-bat two pitches later with a single to right field. Cesar Izturis promptly replaced Phillips as a pinch-runner, though, and took over at second base in the top of the sixth.
Phillips was relieved to find out the results of the X-ray after watching the immediate swelling on his shin.
"I thought it was broke," Phillips said. "Honestly, I couldn't feel my toes at the time. I was just like, 'Oh my gosh.' That's why I called [Lessard] to come out there. You get hit on the foot and you hit yourself with the ball every once in a while with foul balls, but I never felt anything like that."
Earlier, Phillips connected on a single with runners on the corners in the bottom of the third for his 103rd RBI of the season. He also came around to score later in the inning on Jay Bruce's two-run double.
Although he hadn't talked to Baker about playing Sunday, there's little chance Phillips takes the field for a game that doesn't decide anything. The mark on Phillips' leg was still visible after the game, but he said he felt better and had no doubts about playing in the upcoming Wild Card Game.
"I'm just going to come to the field, get a lot of treatment and try to get everything going so I can be able to help the team win on Tuesday," Phillips said. "As long as I'm playing Tuesday, that's the only thing on my mind."
• Saturday's game vs. the Pirates was the Reds' 15th sellout of the season at Great American Ball Park, tying last season's franchise record.
• Derrick Robinson celebrated his 26th birthday on Saturday.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.