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AP - Sports

The Cincinnati Reds didn't panic when they learned injured slugger Joey Votto would miss at least three weeks, nor did they when trailing by six runs in their latest contest.

While teams like the Milwaukee Brewers who are chasing them in the NL Central may be looking to pounce on the Votto-less Reds, Brandon Phillips helped show there's still some pop in the lineup.

First-place Cincinnati seeks its fifth win in seven meetings with Milwaukee when it hosts the opener of a three-game series Friday night.

Votto was hitting .342 when he had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee Tuesday. The Reds lost two of their first three games without Votto, scoring a combined eight runs, before falling behind 6-0 to Arizona on Thursday.

Phillips, though, hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and a tying two-run double in the seventh, then scored the go-ahead run later in that inning as Cincinnati won 7-6. He's hitting .438 over his last eight.

"Brandon can hit all over the order," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's the only guy we've got who can do that. This lets you know you can come back. It shows us what we can do without Joey. You've just got to keep doing what you can do."

The Reds (52-40) have won four of the first six meetings with Milwaukee (44-47), which has won six of nine and is 7 1/2 games behind the division leaders.

"Joey Votto is out for the next month - that completely changes the dynamic of the division," Ryan Braun told the Brewers' official website. "When one of the teams ahead of you loses its best player for a month, that changes everything.

"There is no good reason to lose optimism when there are still all of these games left."

Braun hopes to be back in the lineup for the series opener after sitting out Wednesday's 4-3 win over St. Louis due to a right groin strain.

He's 6 for 14 with four extra-base hits over the past 2 1/2 seasons against Homer Bailey, who takes the mound for the Reds on Friday.

Bailey (8-6, 3.93 ERA) has won three consecutive starts, posting a 1.99 ERA, after giving up one earned run in eight innings of a 4-2 victory over St. Louis on Sunday.

The right-hander went into his last outing 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA at home, including giving up five runs in four innings of an 8-4 loss to the Brewers on June 27.

Bailey also allowed six runs in 3 2-3 innings of an 8-3 defeat at Milwaukee on May 8, and he's 0-5 with a 6.50 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Brewers. Rickie Weeks is 11 for 21 with two homers against him but enters this contest batting .197.

Milwaukee counters with Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.13), who has 29 strikeouts over his last three starts. He had 11 on Saturday, giving up three runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh.

The right-hander did not get a decision in that game or June 26 against the Reds despite striking out a career-high 12, allowing three runs in six innings of a 4-3 loss. He's 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in seven career appearances - three starts - versus Cincinnati.

Phillips is 6 for 12 against him. Jay Bruce is 4 for 11 with three homers off Estrada but is in an 0-for-16 drought.

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