LOS ANGELES (AP) -The Cincinnati Reds kept rolling along during Johnny Cueto's seven-game suspension thanks to a pair of outstanding starts by Homer Bailey.
The right-hander pitched seven solid innings Friday night and the NL Central leaders beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 for their season-high seventh victory in a row.
``It wasn't any extra stress,' Bailey said. ``You start remembering how every single day when you showed up to do rehab, you wish you were playing. And that definitely comes out. I knew I was throwing the ball well before I got hurt, so I just tried to carry it over into the games.'
Bailey (3-2) allowed a run and four hits, struck out six and walked two in his second outing since coming off the disabled list. Last Sunday, he tossed six innings of three-hit ball in a 2-0 win against Florida after missing almost three months because of inflammation in his shoulder.
``We needed that, and we needed it badly,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``We left him down in the minors (on his rehab stint) a little bit longer than he wanted us to and we wanted to. But we wanted him to be ready big-time when he got back here. More importantly, he wanted it. And when a pitcher wants it, that gives everybody a lot more confidence.'
Cueto finished serving the seven-game ban he received for his actions during the Reds' bench-clearing brawl with St. Louis on Aug. 10, when he was ejected for kicking several Cardinals players while pinned against the home plate screen. He will start on Saturday night.
``We really missed Cueto, but we're happy that he's pitching tomorrow,' said second baseman Brandon Phillips, whose trash-talking episode with Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina triggered the melee. ``Tonight showed you how deep we are with our team. We have a lot of pitching prospects and guys who come through when they need to. But we're looking forward to having Cueto back.'
Arthur Rhodes pitched a perfect eighth and Francisco Cordero a scoreless ninth for his 33rd save in 39 attempts.
The Reds had lost their previous 12 games at Dodger Stadium since winning on July 28, 2005.
``I'm very happy that we ended this drought, because coming here is not fun,' said Phillips, who backed Bailey with three hits and three RBIs.
The win, coupled with St. Louis' home loss to San Francisco, increased Cincinnati's division lead to 4 1/2 games - the Reds' largest margin since May 18, 2002, when they held a five-game lead before finishing in third place. They are seeking their first division title since 1995, when they swept the Dodgers in the first round of the postseason.
Cincinnati (71-51) has won eight straight on the road and is a season-high 20 games over .500.
``It's gratifying to be in first place,' Baker said. ``This team and this organization hasn't been in first place for many years. The last four years here had been tough. It was tough on everybody - especially me because people know how I like to win. Winning solves a lot of problems and creates a lot of camaraderie. You can overlook a lot of small things, like people cutting me off today on the freeway. It didn't bother me as much.'
Dodgers rookie Carlos Monasterios (3-4) was charged with three runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings and had six strikeouts, a career high. Two of the runs were unearned, the result of his throwing error in the fourth. The 24-year-old right-hander came out of the bullpen to make his ninth big league start because Vicente Padilla went on the disabled list with a bulging disk in his neck.
Jamey Carroll drew a leadoff walk in the third for the Dodgers and scored the tying run on Ryan Theriot's bunt single with two outs.
Phillips had an RBI single in the second and a two-run single in the fourth, both with two outs.
``If Carlos was able to make a decent throw to first, it ends up being a good outing,' Los Angeles pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. ``I thought he held his composure pretty good. But Phillips is a good hitter. He got a pitch down in the zone where he could handle it and he hit it up the middle.'
NOTES: Cincinnati SS Orlando Cabrera, who missed his 15th straight game because of a strained muscle on his left side, said he thinks he'll be able to come off the disabled list Sunday when the Reds face LHP Clayton Kershaw. ... The Dodgers have committed 83 errors - 35 more than the Reds, who have the fewest in the majors. ... Dodgers RHP Octavio Dotel, who threw three wild pitches in the 10th inning of Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Colorado, retired all six batters he faced and struck out three after two hitless innings by rookie Kenley Jansen.
The Associated Press News Service
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