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Sun, Aug 26, 2012 - 1:10 PM ET
 

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First baseman Joey Votto should be back in the Cincinnati Reds' lineup soon.

But there's really no rush as the NL Central leaders have done better than expected without their former MVP.

The Reds look to extend their division lead over the second-place Cardinals to eight Sunday when these teams meet at Great American Ball Park for the final time this season.

Votto, who last played in a 4-2 win over St. Louis on July 15 due to torn cartilage in his left knee, has taken batting practice before the first two games of this series.

"He's getting very, very close," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website before Saturday's 8-2 victory.

Cincinnati (77-51) would obviously prefer to have Votto back in the lineup, but the club has gone 24-16 since the 2010 MVP went down to build the majors' largest division lead.

"I don't think I carry a team or do anything along those lines," Votto said Friday. "I fit in. And this is a great example of how small of an impact a player can have. You lose a quarterback in the NFL, that team's in trouble. You look at Indianapolis. And then (if) you lose a star in the NBA ... But that's not how it works in baseball.

"I realize that. If I didn't realize that, this stretch has certainly shown me."

The Reds, winners of five of the last six versus St. Louis (69-57), will try to add to their major league-leading home win total (42) with Homer Bailey (10-8, 4.11 ERA) on the hill.

The right-hander, though, has struggled at Great American Ball Park, going 3-6 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 starts. Opponents are batting .388 off him in his last three outings in the Queen City.

However, Bailey might take the mound with a little more confidence Sunday after working out a mechanical flaw in his delivery with pitching coach Bryan Price prior to throwing 6 1-3 strong innings in Tuesday's 5-4 victory at Philadelphia.

"I was like a hitter who has a glitch in their swing or any athlete that has a glitch in their mechanics," said Bailey, who is 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this season.

There hasn't been anything wrong with Adam Wainwright's stuff lately. Sunday's starter for St. Louis has a 1.16 ERA while winning his last four starts. Wainwright (12-10, 3.65) has never won five consecutive starts.

"He's fun to watch,'' manager Mike Matheny said after the right-hander threw a five-hitter with a career high-tying 12 strikeouts in Tuesday's 7-0 win over Houston. "He thrives on those opportunities to lead by example.''

Wainwright, though, hasn't been able to get the job done in two starts against the Reds in 2012, giving up eight total runs in two losses.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, 4 for 6 with a homer and a double off Wainwright in those contests, is batting .480 (12 for 25) in six home games versus St. Louis this season after going 3 for 5 with his first homer in August on Saturday.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese (left wrist) and catcher Yadier Molina (ankle) both missed Saturday's contest, and it's uncertain whether either will play in the series finale.

Tagged: Reds, Cardinals, Adam Wainwright, Joey Votto, Homer Bailey

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