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Baker keeps keen eye on NL Central opponents

CINCINNATI -- Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Padres was another missed opportunity for the Reds to gain ground in the National League Central, as both the first-place Pirates and second-place Cardinals lost. The deficit behind Pittsburgh was six games, and it was two games behind St. Louis, which has dropped four in a row and 13 of 17.

Meanwhile, in the NL Wild Card race, the Reds came in with a 4 1/2-game lead for the second spot over the D-backs. The late summer is a time for scoreboard watching, which Reds manager Dusty Baker does all season long. But he's not looking back at Arizona and only looking forward to Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

"It's like Satchel Paige said, 'Don't look behind you, because someone might be gaining on you. What am I going to look backwards for?'" Baker said. "It's just like a wide receiver. You can tell the guys that can't run because they're angling towards the end zone and they're looking back to see who can catch them. A guy who can run, he just runs to cross that finish line.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice the scores. I notice scores all the time, especially teams we have to play; who's hot, who's not? I go home at night and watch baseball until I fall asleep, every night. I'm trying to pick up something or look and see how they're pitching these guys. That's my job. I like what I do. Contrary to popular belief, I am very alert and aware and try to stay ahead of the game and try to know what's going on all the time. It may not work, like last night. Sometimes it's not going to work."

In Saturday's loss, Baker sat third baseman Todd Frazier because he didn't like the matchup against Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross. Frazier's replacement, Jack Hannahan, committed three errors and grounded into a double play.

Baker still remains optimistic about his team's chances in the playoff chase. His lineup will get Ryan Ludwick back from a lengthy shoulder injury on Monday, and reliever Jonathan Broxton successfully returned from the disabled list on Friday.

"For those of us who were panicking and coming down on this team, we're in pretty good shape," Baker said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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