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MIA@CIN: Phillips singles for his 1,000th Reds hit

If the Reds' hitting can catch up with the pitchers, they'll be in business. But the Nationals, it seems, are not keen on allowing for that to happen right now.

The Nationals, at 7-2, are on a five-game winning streak and off to the franchise's best nine-game start heading into the finale of this four-game series on Sunday, Jackie Robinson Day, at Nationals Park.

Washington, which remains alone in first place in the National League East for the first time since April 3, 2008, will send lefty Ross Detwiler to the hill looking for his second victory of the year.

Detwiler tossed five shutout frames on Tuesday, scattering two hits -- both in the first inning -- and six strikeouts against the Mets. "I was leaving the ball up a little bit, especially the second hit [in the first inning]," Detwiler said afterward. "My pitch selection was off a little bit. Right there, I knew I needed to kind of snap [out of it] or it was going to get out of hand pretty quick."

Detwiler will likely face a different Reds lineup than the one his rotation mates have seen in the series' first three games, as Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips should return to action.

Phillips hasn't started since suffering a left hamstring cramp on Monday. He returned to action for the first time on Friday as a pinch-hitter, and struck out in the top of the 13th in a 2-1 Reds loss to Washington.

Saturday should be the last day that Phillips sits on the bench, however.

"That's what I told him in the beginning, that it would probably be [Sunday]," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Saturday.

"Seeing the way we're playing and with me on the bench, I feel like I need to go in there," Phillips said. "I'm not 100 percent, but I can play. I can go out there and perform, regardless of the fact. No one on the team is 100 percent. I could go out there, play, and be comfortable. If I had to go from first to third, I feel like I can do that. If I had to score from second to home on a base hit, I can do that, too."

Baker hopes Phillips can help spark his team.

"We've got to get out of here [Sunday] with one, then have a nice off-day and go to St. Louis and regroup," Baker said.

Reds: Leake ready for next challenge
With a 4-1 loss on Saturday, Cincinnati starters remain winless since Johnny Cueto earned a victory by throwing seven shutout innings in the Reds' 4-0 win against Miami on Opening Day, April 5. But Cincinnati's hurlers have pitched fine lately -- they're 1-4 in the last five games, but have allowed just 15 earned runs in 49 innings of work (2.75 ERA).

Right-hander Mike Leake, who was hurt by home runs by St. Louis' Carlos Beltran and David Freese on Tuesday, will give it a shot on Sunday. He's 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against Washington.

"I thought it was good and bad," Leake said of his season debut. "I did get out of a couple of jams. Then again, I made three mistakes. I would say crucial mistakes. First outing, you learn from it."

• With an 0-for-3 afternoon on Saturday, Cincinnati cleanup hitter Jay Bruce has just one hit in his last three games (1-for-11). He has just one RBI since April 8, when he hit two homers against the Marlins.

• Miguel Cairo left Saturday's game after doubling and scoring a run in the top of the second -- he was replaced by Wilson Valdez at third base -- due to a strained left hamstring. He is considered day to day.

Nationals: Picking up where he left off
Since last year's All-Star break, shortstop Ian Desmond is batting .294 (91-for-309) with 17 doubles, two triples, six homers, 29 RBIs and 20 walks in 78 games. The leadoff hitter has reached base 16 times (14 hits, two walks), scored six runs and stolen one base in Washington's first nine games.

• The Nationals' bench is 5-for-16 (.313) with a double, a home run, five RBIs, three runs and two walks this season.

Worth noting
• Cincinnati's Scott Rolen is one double shy of 503 for his career, which would tie him with Andre Dawson for 51st on baseball's all-time list.

• The Nationals were 0-5 in one-run games against the Reds in the last two seasons, but have already won two one-run ballgames in this four-game series.

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