CINCINNATI -- When Brandon Phillips was a kid, he was obsessed with Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. Looking back, he would have liked to communicate with his idol, regardless of how impersonal the interaction was."I wish Twitter was around when I was a kid," said Phillips, who went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs on Saturday. "Barry Larkin would have hated me, man. I would have been asking him to come to all of my games." So when Phillips received a Tweet from Connor Echols asking him to come to the West Chester Baseball Complex to watch Echols and the Cincinnati Flames on Thursday, Phillips obliged. Phillips, who as a member of the Indians finally met Larkin, has endeared himself to Cincinnati fans as much for his Gold Glove defense as for using his Twitter account (@DatDudeBP) to interact directly with his followers. With Phillips in attendance, the Flames won, 13-2. But more than the game itself, Phillips said he enjoyed listening to the parents in the stands. It reminded him of hearing his own mother and father screaming for him -- and at the umpires -- when he was Echols' age. "I remember my parents going crazy," he said. "It was just amazing. Parents want to see their kids do so well. It brought back a lot of memories."
-- Tyler Jett
After rough start, Masset finding peak form
CINCINNATI -- History seems to be repeating itself for right-hander Nick Masset, and that would be a good situation for the Reds.Masset endured an extremely bumpy first month to this season but has found a groove of late. Since allowing four runs in one inning on May 1 against the Marlins, the setup man entered Saturday with seven consecutive scoreless appearances with one walk and 13 strikeouts over 8 1/3 innings. In the season's first month, Masset had a stretch where he accounted for three of the Reds' first four losses, gave up seven earned runs and 11 hits over four games. He had nine walks for the month. Things had smoothed out some until the May 1 game. "I guess it's coincidental that I had a rough start last year and struggled this year," Masset said. "Sometimes, you get a little bit out of whack and you have to find yourself mechanically and physically. Easily, once your mechanics fall apart a little bit, you start to mentally get on yourself and apply a little more pressure." Last season, Masset had an 11.32 ERA after his first 12 appearances before he finished with a 3.40 ERA over a career-high 82 appearances. Entering Saturday, he has a 4.18 ERA over 20 appearances and his 23 2/3 innings were tied for the Major League lead among relievers. "Once you start putting a few games together and feel good, you don't have to think out there and ... all you have to worry about is focusing on hitters, pitching to their weaknesses and to your strengths," Masset said. "That's what's going on right now. I can command three of my pitches to where I want to. It's helping me out."
In Friday's 6-5 win over the Cardinals that lasted 10 innings, Masset pitched two scoreless frames over the eighth and ninth and was regularly touching 95-96 mph on the radar gun. At one point, he struck out four batters in a row."When you're feeling good, you want to pitch," Masset said. "Our job is to keep the team in the game. I am just trying to throw zeroes. If I get ahead of hitters, I'll take strikeouts. It's a plus for me. The main thing is zeroes on the board."
Janish returns, not feeling effects of sprain
CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Paul Janish was back in the starting lineup on Saturday after getting a break on Friday. Janish didn't play that game because Edgar Renteria had a stronger track record against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse.Janish is no longer feeling the effects from the sprained right ankle he suffered in Chicago on May 6. After missing four games, he returned to the lineup on Wednesday in Houston. "I'm fine. I think I'm ready to go," Janish said. "We've pretty much turned the corner in terms of the soreness and everything." In Saturday's lineup, Reds manager Dusty Baker had Janish batting second for the first time this season. Janish was hitless in four at-bats, and he made an error. "It's kind of how it worked out with Scotty [Rolen] batting sixth and who we're facing, who you can use to hit and run, who you can use to sacrifice bunt. It's the best lineup for the day," Baker said. Baker expected Janish to return to batting eighth on Sunday. Rolen is likely to return to his cleanup spot, which would move Brandon Phillips back to the No. 2 spot.
Saturday's game against the Cardinals was the 56th sellout in the nine-season history of regular season games at Great American Ball Park. Friday's 6-5 win in 10 innings over St. Louis came after the Reds were in a 4-0 deficit. It was the Major League-leading third time this season that Cincinnati won a game in which it trailed by at least three runs.
The Reds honored former manager Sparky Anderson before the game, playing a video tribute prior to the game. The team also gave away statues of Anderson, who led the team to two World Series victories. Anderson died on Nov. 4, 2010.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Tyler Jett is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.