LOS ANGELES -- In a place where they've have had about as much success as the opening of any recent Lindsay Lohan movie, they Reds showed that their status as real-deal contenders is becoming more and more impenetrable. Not even their curse at Chavez Ravine was a formidable foe for the Reds' winning ways during a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers Friday night. Gone is the team's 12-game losing streak at Dodgers Stadium. And now the Reds' margin over the second-place Cardinals is widening like the San Fernando Valley. They moved to 4 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis, which was a 6-3 loser to the Giants earlier in the evening.
"Every game this time of year -- especially when you have 40 left -- is important," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If you can pick up a game, that's even better." Since that ominous sweep at the hands of the Cardinals last week, the Reds have rallied like Ralph Macchio against the Cobra Kai in a "Karate Kid" montage. They have won a season-high seven in a row to move to 20 games over .500 at 71-51. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have dropped five straight. The Dodgers, now one game over .500 at 62-61, weren't the same team that kicked the Reds up and down Sunset Boulevard in the past. They were missing key players like Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin. Vicente Padilla was supposed to start but went on the disabled list. "It's a new year," Baker said. "We have a different team and a better team. They were banged up some. A couple of their key players were out." Reds starter Homer Bailey was still in the lower Minors when Cincinnati last won a game at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 2005. Brandon Claussen was the winning pitcher that day and no current Reds players, except for the injured Aaron Harang, were even around to see it. Bailey (3-2) delivered seven strong innings while allowing one earned run and four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. "We're just trying to win every game we play," Bailey said. "The losing streak wasn't in anybody's minds, at least not mine." In two starts back from the disabled list after he missed nearly three months because of shoulder inflammation, Bailey has allowed just one run over 13 innings. "You start remembering every single day when you showed up and did rehab how much you wished you were playing," Bailey said. "That definitely comes out. I was throwing the ball well before I got hurt. I tried to carry it over." After retiring his first six batters of the game, Bailey walked leadoff batter Jamey Carroll in the third inning. It led to the Dodgers' only run. With runners on the corners and two outs, Ryan Theriot put down a safety-squeeze bunt between the mound and third base. Theriot beat Bailey's throw to first base as Carroll scored. Following Theriot's bunt, Bailey retired the next 10 of 12 batters to get through the sixth with 100 pitches and looked as strong as he did in the first inning. Baker contemplating going to the bullpen, but heard the words from Bailey he wanted to hear. He said, 'Skip, I want this one,'" Baker said of Bailey. "We needed him that seventh inning, because we didn't have [Nick] Masset and I wanted to stay away from [Logan] Ondrusek. My bullpen was a little spent. He went out there and showed what willpower can do." Back on May 1 in St. Louis, Bailey was well over 100 pitches and told his manager he wanted to stay in to face Albert Pujols. Bailey gave up a tie-breaking RBI double to Pujols and the Reds went on to lose as Baker was vilified. But for the big picture, he liked how his pitcher wanted the ball then and liked it even better on Friday. Bailey gave up a leadoff double in the seventh to Casey Blake before getting a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts to finish with 114 pitches. "That's the making of an ace," Baker said. Brandon Phillips led the Reds with three hits in his first three at-bats and had all three RBIs. His two-out RBI single to left field off of Carlos Monasterios (3-4) in the top of the second scored Ryan Hanigan with the game's first run. In the fourth inning, also with two outs, Phillips' single to center field scored Hanigan and Drew Stubbs to give Cincinnati the two-run lead. "Brandon was huge today. How many times have I said that the team that gets the most two-out RBIs usually wins?" Baker said. "It was Brandon's night tonight." The Reds, which were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, missed on doing more damage. But the lead held up with Bailey and the bullpen. Arthur Rhodes followed with a perfect eighth. Francisco Cordero had a relatively drama-free 33rd save, including his eighth straight. A one-out bloop single was erased by Blake's game-ending double play. "Physically, even after the game, I felt like I could still go," Bailey said. "Usually once you find out you're not in the game, you kind of go through a little shut down. I was happy with the way I threw. I put some ice on and watched the game. There's a big comfort knowing those guys in the bullpen have your back."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.