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LAA@CIN: Latos fans eight Angels over 6 2/3 innings

Just six games in, the Reds have already put their sturdy bullpen to the test. With an important series coming against the division-rival Cardinals, a lot of that pressure now falls onto the starting pitching.

Two of Cincinnati's first six games have gone into extra innings -- a 3-1 loss to the Angels on Opening Day and a 7-6 loss to the Nationals on Saturday -- causing manager Dusty Baker to budget his pitching staff accordingly.

It has worked so far, as the Reds wrapped up an impressive opening homestand with series wins against both the loaded Nationals and the Angels. Now they get the Cardinals, who have advanced to the National League Championship Series the last two seasons.

The first pitch Monday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET.

The Cardinals will send lefty Jaime Garcia to the mound, as he starts a home opener for the first time in his career. He is coming off a solid 5 2/3-inning performance in Arizona, continuing to look strong after a terrific spring that showed no residual effects from last year's shoulder issues.

"When he's pitching like that, he's as good as anyone in the league," outfielder Matt Holliday said Wednesday after Garcia's first win of the year. "When he's got it going, he's as hard to hit as anybody."

Meanwhile, it will be on Reds starter Mat Latos to hold things up for Cincinnati, which has been clicking just fine despite having to use just about every piece of Baker's pitching staff.

Sean Marshall was not available until Sunday but tossed a perfect seventh inning while striking out one. Jonathan Broxton did the same before Aroldis Chapman secured his second save of the year.

"Broxton has gone two days in a row. Chapman has gone two days in a row," Baker said. "We need some innings, big-time, out of Latos tomorrow to put us back in sync."

Cardinals: Kozma streaking
• Shortstop Pete Kozma, filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal, has a hit in four of the Cardinals' first six games.

• St. Louis narrowly won the season series last year, going 8-7 against the Reds and outscoring Cincinnati, 60-46.

Reds: Hot at plate
The Reds have four players who have played at least four games and are hitting above .300 in the early going, with third baseman Todd Frazier leading the way. He has appeared in all six and is batting .480 after going 1-for-3 day Sunday with an RBI and two walks.

Shin-Soo Choo has also played in every game and is hitting .375, while Xavier Paul has played in five (albeit four as a pinch-hitter) and is also hitting .375. Brandon Phillips boosted his average to .333 after a 2-for-5 afternoon Sunday.

Worth noting
• Cincinnati has won just three and split two of its last 27 series in St. Louis, beginning in 2003, according to the Associated Press.

• Reds opponents this season have made 12 errors in six games to start the year, while Cincinnati has made just two in that span. Comments