But there's really no rush as the NL Central leaders have done better than expected without their former MVP.
The Reds look to extend their division lead over the second-place Cardinals to eight Sunday when these teams meet at Great American Ball Park for the final time this season.
Votto, who last played in a 4-2 win over St. Louis on July 15 due to torn cartilage in his left knee, has taken batting practice before the first two games of this series.
"He's getting very, very close," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website before Saturday's 8-2 victory.
Cincinnati (77-51) would obviously prefer to have Votto back in the lineup, but the club has gone 24-16 since the 2010 MVP went down to build the majors' largest division lead.
"I don't think I carry a team or do anything along those lines," Votto said Friday. "I fit in. And this is a great example of how small of an impact a player can have. You lose a quarterback in the NFL, that team's in trouble. You look at Indianapolis. And then (if) you lose a star in the NBA ... But that's not how it works in baseball.
"I realize that. If I didn't realize that, this stretch has certainly shown me."
The Reds, winners of five of the last six versus St. Louis (69-57), will try to add to their major league-leading home win total (42) with Homer Bailey (10-8, 4.11 ERA) on the hill.
The right-hander, though, has struggled at Great American Ball Park, going 3-6 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 starts. Opponents are batting .388 off him in his last three outings in the Queen City.
However, Bailey might take the mound with a little more confidence Sunday after working out a mechanical flaw in his delivery with pitching coach Bryan Price prior to throwing 6 1-3 strong innings in Tuesday's 5-4 victory at Philadelphia.
"I was like a hitter who has a glitch in their swing or any athlete that has a glitch in their mechanics," said Bailey, who is 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this season.
There hasn't been anything wrong with Adam Wainwright 's stuff lately. Sunday's starter for St. Louis has a 1.16 ERA while winning his last four starts. Wainwright (12-10, 3.65) has never won five consecutive starts."He's fun to watch," manager Mike Matheny said after the right-hander threw a five-hitter with a career high-tying 12 strikeouts in Tuesday's 7-0 win over Houston. "He thrives on those opportunities to lead by example."
Wainwright, though, hasn't been able to get the job done in two starts against the Reds in 2012, giving up eight total runs in two losses.
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips , 4 for 6 with a homer and a double off Wainwright in those contests, is batting .480 (12 for 25) in six home games versus St. Louis this season after going 3 for 5 with his first homer in August on Saturday.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
|August 16, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|August 08, 2012||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|August 03, 2012||Lance Berkman||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Bill Bray||15-Day DL||Lumbar muscle strain|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Matt Holliday is hoping to play a key role in another playoff run for the St. Louis Cardinals. He sure got plenty of help on Sunday.
Holliday had four hits and four RBIs, Adam Wainwright won his fifth consecutive start and the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-2 on Sunday.
Allen Craig homered and drove in three runs as St. Louis handed the Reds their second series loss in 13 sets since the All-Star break. The Cardinals have won five of six to move within six games of the NL Central-leading Reds.
"Holliday had a huge day," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's amazing how the conversations outside of this clubhouse start questioning him. It's not long before he shows everybody how much he means to us."
Holliday is batting .444 (12 for 27) with eight RBIs in his last six games. St. Louis stormed to the World Series title last year and is leading the race for the final NL wild card this season, but is still holding out hope for catching Cincinnati in the division.
"I'm just trying to do my part," Holliday said. "This is a team game. We only play the Reds three more times. We are going to need some help."
St. Louis' 17 hits are the most allowed by Cincinnati in one game this season. The Cardinals collected 42 hits while taking two of three in the weekend series.
"Those guys are all hitting .300," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I don't know who is making outs for that team."
Wainwright (13-10) allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings while improving to 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last seven starts overall. The 6-foot-7 right-hander, who missed all of last season because of elbow surgery, hasn't lost since July 18 at Milwaukee.
"I wanted to take my team further in the game than that, but I get it," Wainwright said. "I had a couple of games in a row that I threw a lot of pitches."
Reds manager Dusty Baker said Wainwright was on his game.
"Wainwright threw the ball well," Baker said. "There's not much else to say, except they beat us."
Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (10-9) gave up five runs in six innings while falling to 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA in five August starts. He also allowed a season-high nine hits for the sixth time.
The Cardinals strung together four consecutive ground-ball singles during a five-hit third inning that plated three runs. Skip Schumaker led off with a double to right-center, and Wainwright chipped in with a one-out single into left field. Schumaker scored on Jon Jay 's base hit up the middle and Matt Carpenter singled to load the bases before Holliday's two-run single to left.
"With Wainwright on the mound, we felt pretty good with those first three runs," Holliday said.
St. Louis added two more in the sixth to make it 5-0. Holliday hit a leadoff triple before Craig drove a 1-2 pitch over the wall in left for his 20th homer.
"The two Matts got on base. That got us started. I take pride in driving in runs," Craig said.
Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick had RBI singles in the sixth for Cincinnati, which beat the Cardinals 8-2 on Saturday.
Holliday also doubled in a run in the seventh and singled in Carpenter in the ninth.
NOTES: Reds 1B Joey Votto is scheduled to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Single-A Dayton, perhaps the last step of his comeback from two minor surgical procedures related to a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Reds are 27-14 since Votto left the lineup. ... RHP Nick Masset was awaiting the results of an MRI on his right shoulder after soreness returned following his rehab appearance with Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 21. Masset has been on the disabled list since spring training. ... The Reds and Cardinals meet one more time this season, in the final series Oct. 1-3 in St. Louis.