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Reds back in first thanks to Bailey's effort

Reds back in first thanks to Bailey's effort

CINCINNATI -- The Reds survived the week. The sky did not fall. The season is not over. Funny how that happens.

After being swept three games in disappointing fashion by the Cardinals to start the home stand, the Reds turned around and finished it by sweeping three from the Marlins with Sunday's 2-0 win.

Not only are the Reds' playoff hopes very much alive, but they're also back in first place all by themselves. A 9-7 Cardinals loss to the Cubs gave Cincinnati a one-game lead again in the National League Central.

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"We cannot look back at those three games that we lost. It's in the past. Today, it's already another paycheck," said Miguel Cairo, whose two-run home run in the sixth inning off Anibal Sanchez was the difference in the win.

Cairo's homer rewarded a superb effort from Reds starter Homer Bailey, who dealt six shutout innings with only three singles allowed. Bailey did not walk a batter and struck out three.

It was Bailey's first Major League start since May 23. He had been on the disabled list since then because of right shoulder inflammation.

"He gave us all he had. He threw the ball great today," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The first time back, that's a great sign for us to have fresh arms like Homer and [Edinson] Volquez down the stretch. When everybody else is a little worn, they're just getting revved up."

On multiple occasions, Bailey's velocity was hitting 95 mph, but he was also getting his pitch count up early on. He had 44 pitches through two innings and 63 through three innings. But his only jam of the day was back-to-back two-out singles in the first inning that put runners on the corners. He got out of it with a fielder's choice ground ball.

After that, Bailey retired the next 16 of 17 Marlins hitters -- including his last 10 in a row.

"The biggest thing was pounding the zone," Bailey said. "I thought my balls-to-strikes ratio was pretty good. The first inning, I wasn't behind in any counts I don't think. They just kept fouling it off and fouling it off. They put together a bunch of really good at-bats. I kept trying to make them put it into play, and they kept fouling it off."

Bailey's strong re-emergence was needed as the Reds have a rotation upheaval coming with his return and the expected returns of Travis Wood, Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang. There are precious few starts available, and the Reds have entertained the idea of using Bailey in the bullpen.

"Everyone knows Homer has ace potential stuff," Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla said.

In four rehab outings in the Minors, including three starts, Bailey was 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA.

"We left him down there to make sure he was right when he got back, and he was right," Baker said.

It was a scoreless game until the sixth inning with two outs when Cairo took a 1-1 slider from Sanchez deep to left field for a two-run home run.

"I was lucky to put good wood on it," Cairo said. "I didn't know I hit it that hard. I thought it would go over the left fielder and stay in the park."

Cairo was filling in for resting third baseman Scott Rolen. The lineup had also lost its best hitter in Joey Votto, who was ejected in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes.

Batting .297 with four home runs and 25 RBIs this season, Cairo has been an indispensable role player off the bench all season. He filled in early on when Votto was injured and was big when Rolen missed a stretch of games with a hamstring injury last month.

"What can we say about Miguel Cairo? This guy has been a savior for us," Baker said. "He's been great. He stays ready all the time. I'd hate to think where we'd be without him."

The Marlins had some chances late but came up empty as they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the game, and 0-for-27 in the series.

Logan Ondrusek pitched the seventh inning and allowed two singles and a two-out walk to load the bases before escaping. Nick Masset allowed a double but had a scoreless eighth inning. Francisco Cordero gave up a leadoff double and two-out walk in the ninth but finished with a strikeout to get his 32nd save.

After an off-day Monday, the Reds head to the West Coast for a three-city trip through Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Pacific Time Zone has been difficult for the Reds in recent years, and they haven't won a game at Dodger Stadium since 2005.

But after surviving the aftermath of the Cardinals' sweep, going West didn't seem as daunting.

"You cannot be worried about what they do, who wins and who loses," Cairo said of the Cardinals. "You have to take care of business for yourself. When we go out there, we believe in ourselves. When you lose one or two or three, these young kids are learning how to come back from that and how to win games."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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