Until the Reds really became Dusty Baker's team, Roy Oswalt owned them.

Oswalt was 21-1 with a 2.35 earned run average in 30 appearances against the Reds until the middle of the 2009 season. He was an Astro, and the Reds were NL Central rivals, so they saw him a lot and they couldn't do anything with him.

Baker took over as manager in 2008. The first four times the Reds faced Oswalt with Baker as manager, Oswalt went 3-0 and surrendered only six runs.

In four starts since then, Oswalt is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA.

"We have a different team," Baker explained. "In the past, he was very successful, you know; he held off lefthanders pretty good. And we probably have more of a contact team now than we did then."

Joey Votto helped his MVP candidacy this season with two homers off Oswalt. Votto's double in the final matchup in 2009 was Oswalt's last pitch of the season. Votto is 10-for-30 against Oswalt in their careers.

Laynce Nix has two doubles and a homer in Oswalt's last four outings against Cincinnati and is 9-for-17 with two homers, three doubles and a triple overall. Only Brewers slugger Ryan Braun and Cardinals destroyer Albert Pujols have numbers nearly as toxic, and they're certified stars.

Nix' numbers earned him a start tonight against Oswalt in Game 2 of the National League Division Series in place of leftfielder Jonny Gomes.

"I've put myself in good position to hit pitches over the plate," Nix said. "Fortunately, I've put the bat on the ball when I have."

"We have an approach that we have figured out that works for us, and that we're able to execute," said Jay Bruce.

That approach?

"We hit his mistakes, and we've laid off his out pitch," said leadoff batter Brandon Phillips, who is 3-for-10 in the Reds' last four games against Oswalt, 12-for-38 with five doubles overall.

So, then, wait for Oswalt to come to them. Will it work again?

"We feel real good," Baker said. "Do you have everybody figured out? You don't know. You don't know until the game starts. So just depends on how sharp he is."

Lately, Oswalt has been sharper than ever.

He is 7-1 as a Phillie, 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA this season at Citizens Bank Park.

"He's wearing a different uniform now," said Votto, referring to the late July trade from Houston. "He seems to have thrown really well in Philadelphia."

There are other caveats, too.

Oswalt was fighting back issues when he faced the Reds on Sept. 15, 2009; in fact, he was shut down after that start.

His start July 24 this season was his last with the Astros. Oswalt arrived in Philadelphia and promptly sputtered against the Nationals on July 30. After that start, he acknowledged he was in the midst of the dead-arm period virtually every starter experiences.

Still, Oswalt didn't have a bad back or a dead arm April 29, when he escaped trouble three times before the Reds scored in the fifth and seventh. He was fine on May 26, 2009, too, when Nix singled and homered.

Then again, Nix was sharper then than he is now. He sprained his left ankle in late August and missed a month. He has had only eight plate appearances since Aug. 25.

"I'm not making too much of it," Nix said. "I don't have a lot of at-bats since coming back, but . . . my rhythm and timing should be fine."

Especially, perhaps, against Oswalt.

Blissful ignorance

Yesterday, the Reds' almost universal claim that they didn't know they haven't scored at The Bank in 30 innings rang so loudly, it almost didn't ring true.

"You're telling me things we don't think about. I didn't know that. I don't even care about it," Brandon Phillips insisted.

"I didn't know it was 30 innings," Dusty Baker said. "I still don't know."

Which seems a bit ridiculous. The Phillies dealt the Reds consecutive shutouts to complete a four-game sweep entering the All-Star break in early July - a sweep to which the Reds constantly refer when they need an example of their resilience.

And, of course, there was the no-hitter Roy Halladay put on them in Game 1 on Wednesday.

"I don't think any of that matters," said Laynce Nix, the only Red to acknowledge knowledge. "I don't know why we have to carry any of that on our shoulders going into tomorrow."

Which is a fair point. And honest.


Dusty Baker said the coolheaded relief performance from rookie lefthander Travis Wood in Game 1 might earn Wood a start in Game 4 over Edinson Volquez, who lasted only five outs. Wood one-hit the Phillies over nine scoreless innings and was perfect through eight in his third major league start, July 10. He also dealt 3 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1. Volquez, who routinely tops 95 mph, would go to the bullpen . . . Baker consoled Brandon Phillips, whose groundout ended Roy Halladay's no-hitter, by telling his second baseman that, as a Dodger, he finished a historic no-hitter - Sept. 26, 1981, in Houston, Nolan Ryan's record-breaking fifth - by grounding out to third. *