STL@CIN: Latos goes the distance to tally 14th win

CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker announced the expected after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Mets, confirming that Mat Latos will take the mound for Wednesday's rubber match against New York.

Greg Reynolds was originally slated to start the series finale, but the space reserved for the next day's starter on the white erase board in manager Dusty Baker's office was blank prior to Tuesday's game, indicating a change was going to be made.

Latos last pitched on Friday against the Pirates and gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings. A report surfaced on Monday that the 25-year-old right-hander was still dealing with an abdominal strain sustained in June, but Latos denied that was the case on Tuesday.

"He says he's fine," Baker said. "He said that whatever was written was a while ago and they made it sound like it was yesterday. He's fine. He's ready to go."

By pitching Latos on Wednesday, Baker and the Reds will have arguably their most dominant starter this season throwing in an important game, as Cincinnati enters the day trailing first-place St. Louis by three games in the National League Central with four games to play.

Perhaps as importantly, though, Latos will now be available for two potentially even bigger games.

If the Reds manage to tie the Cardinals for first by the time the season ends Sunday, Latos would likely take the ball on regular rest for a tiebreaker on Monday. If Cincinnati can't make up enough ground and ends up in the Wild Card game, Latos would receive an extra day of rest and be able to take the mound on Tuesday.

In five starts against the Cardinals, Latos is 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA, including a complete-game victory on Sept. 2. Latos has also made five starts against the Pirates but is just 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in those outings.

For the season, Latos has gone 14-6 with a 3.23 ERA. One more win would set a career high for Latos, who gave up four runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Mets in late May.

Reds unsure if Hamilton will be on playoff roster

CIN@PIT: Hamilton gets three hits, steals two bags

CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton has been with the Reds for about three weeks, but it didn't take him long to become one of the most talked about players on the team. Along those lines, the prevailing question around Great American Ball Park remains: Will the lightning fast outfielder be a part of the postseason roster come next week?

"We still haven't decided," manager Dusty Baker said before Tuesday's game against the Mets. "There's a lot of variables here and a lot of things we have to decide. I know Billy is the topic of the day, and they're selling T-shirts up there already. It's just that, that's not the focal point of where we're going. Billy is a possible part for that."

Since being called up on Sept. 2, Hamilton has been electrifying, converting on each of his first 13 Major League steal attempts entering Tuesday. At the plate, he's been better than expected, going 6-for-14 (.429) with a pair of doubles and an RBI. He's scored nine runs -- two of which were game-winners while one tied a game late and another put the Reds ahead in extra innings.

Although Baker has been pleased with everything he's seen out of Hamilton, he said there's various factors in play when putting together a playoff roster.

"Who do you delete to take his place?" Baker said. "Thing is, Billy, is he ready to handle that pressure? And not only baserunning, which he can probably handle, but is he ready to start a game, or is he ready to come off the bench and get some hits that you might need. There's a lot of factors here. Is he Willie McGee maybe?"

McGee was an outfielder who played primarily for the Cardinals. In his rookie season in 1982, McGee stole the show in St. Louis' championship run and became one of just three rookies to hit two homers in a World Series game.

Hamilton's speed makes him a dangerous weapon, but he's also been able to learn a great deal since being called up about other aspects and nuances. Along with having his former Minor League manager, Delino DeShields, with him in the dugout, Hamilton has taken tips from former Reds great Eric Davis. Like Hamilton, Davis made the switch from infield to outfield before breaking through to the Majors, and Hamilton said that has been a big help.

While he waits to find out if he'll make the postseason roster, Hamilton said he's just enjoying the ride and trying to soak up as much information as possible.

"I wasn't expecting to come in and get all this attention so quickly," Hamilton said. "But it's been a blessing. I'm having fun and just looking to do what I can for the team and hopefully get some more wins."

Marshall glad to be back pitching in big spots

NYM@CIN: Reds turn a pair to finish off the eighth

CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Sean Marshall faced just one batter on Monday against the Mets, but that didn't prevent his outing from being one of the most gratifying he's had in a long time.

After four months on the disabled list with a left shoulder sprain, Marshall made his first appearance since May 20 last week against the Astros. It wasn't until Monday, though, that the 31-year-old left-hander pitched in a truly high-pressure situation.

With the game tied at 2 in the top of the eighth, the Mets put runners on first and second with one out against Sam LeCure before Marshall came on to face lefty Lucas Duda. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Marshall threw a curveball and induced an inning-ending double play. As he walked off the mound, Marshall gave a subtle fist pump and was then greeted with a hug from LeCure in the dugout.

"We all pull for each other," Marshall said of the Cincinnati relievers. "They've been pulling for me to get healthy and be back out there pitching in situations like that. It touches me a little bit to have the support that I've had. People tell me it's nice to see me back out there."

One of those people is Reds manager Dusty Baker, who has juggled various injuries in his bullpen and his lineup all season.

"It's good having Marshall back because that's his job -- to come in like that in a tough situation against lefties," Baker said. "Man, that was a heck of a double play they turned. It was just great to win."

The 3-2 win helped the Reds clinch a playoff spot in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1975-76. It also provided a big boost for Marshall as he looks to make sure he's in top form for a postseason run.

"It was a big game," Marshall said. "I was very excited to be out there and put in that opportunity again. I haven't pitched in that tight of a ballgame since May, and I felt like I was right back at home. That's what I'm looking for."

Worth noting

• The white board in Baker's office had a blank space where the starter for the day's next game is typically written. Although Greg Reynolds was originally slated to make Wednesday's start against the Mets, Baker indicated that likely won't be the case.

"I'll let you know," Baker said when asked if he had determined a starter for Wednesday.

• Before the Reds take on the Pirates on Saturday, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Toyota dealers will present a 2013 Toyota Tundra truck to Matthew 25: Ministries in a ceremony set to take place on the field at Great American Ball Park. For the fourth year in a row, Toyota dealers have donated a truck that would be given to a randomly selected fan if a Reds player hit the "Hit it Here" sign located under the PNC Power Stacks in right field. Should a player accomplish that this season, the area Toyota dealers would donate a second truck along with the one going to Matthew 25: Ministries.