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CIN@PHI: Votto goes 4-for-4, reaches base six times

Reds first baseman Joey Votto opened his team's three-game series against the Mets on Monday as the reigning National League Player of the Week.

Although running into an All-Star who is fresh off leading the Majors with a .583 batting average last week should be a concern for the Mets as they get ready for the second game of the three-game set on Tuesday, the biggest problem for them might be that Votto has plenty of help.

After Votto's fifth multihit performance in the last seven games on Monday, his hitting streak sits at nine games. Not to be outdone, right fielder Jay Bruce carries a season-high 11-game streak into Tuesday's game, and second baseman Brandon Phillips has a hit in each of his last eight games.

On the Reds' current road trip, which began last Tuesday in Miami, the starting 3-4-5 hitters have combined for six home runs, 21 RBIs and 36 hits.

Bruce connected on his fifth home run of the month on Monday after hitting just one in April; manager Dusty Baker said he's been a key reason the Reds have won eight of their last 10.

"He's swinging that bat well," Baker said. "We welcome it big time. We've been sort of waiting on it, and I just hope this stays and sustains itself."

Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese, who takes on the Reds' Mike Leake, will be tasked with slowing Cincinnati and the streaking heart of its order. Fortunately for him, he appeared to recover from the worst two outings of his career in his most recent start.

Niese allowed a combined 15 runs and 15 hits in starts against the Braves and Pirates earlier this month, and did not make it out of the fifth inning in either appearance. He rebounded against the Cardinals on Thursday, though, giving up two runs on six hits in 7 1/3 innings on the way to his third win of the season.

After his tough two-game stretch, Niese said that he wasn't "deceiving" hitters, because his arm angle had dropped, and he practiced his windup in front of a mirror to fix his problem. The practice seems to have worked, and Niese hopes to keep his momentum going against the Reds.

"I think we're all trying to pitch well and to get into that groove that way," Niese said.

Reds: Cozart still dealing with sickness
Shortstop Zack Cozart started to feel sick on the team bus on Saturday night, and he missed his second straight game on Monday while battling a mysterious stomach bug.

"The doc couldn't say if it was food poisoning or just a little bug. It was awful," Cozart said. "On Saturday night it was bad. I'm off today to get fluids in me as much as possible. I'm sure I'm still dehydrated, even after I drank a lot of water yesterday."

Cozart was quarantined in the trainer's room during Sunday's game but was back with his teammates on Monday. Neither he nor manager Dusty Baker said whether he'll be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

In 39 games, Cozart is batting .206 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

• As Johnny Cueto's return approached, Leake and Tony Cingrani battled for the chance to remain in the rotation. When Cingrani was optioned to Triple-A Louisville last week, Leake's job was safe.

Leake is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in eight starts. The 25-year-old right-hander delivered his second shutout performance of 2013 last Wednesday, scattering nine hits across 6 2/3 innings in a 4-0 win over the Marlins.

Mets: For Collins, Murphy is No. 1
On Monday, for the second straight game, manager Terry Collins opted to bat second baseman Daniel Murphy in the leadoff spot.

Although Murphy went 0-for-4 in the series opener against the Reds, he did draw a walk, and he solidified himself as the leadoff hitter for at least the near future after connecting on a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Murphy enters Tuesday batting .293 with four homers and 19 RBIs, and Collins hopes the change can improve production at the top of his order.

"I think Dan Murphy's a good hitter," Collins said. "If you hit him fifth, he's still going to be a good hitter and probably drive some runs in for you. But I sure like the fact that he gets on base the way he does with David [Wright] coming up. David's shown with runners in scoring position, he'll drive them in."

Worth noting
• Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo will have the day off on Tuesday with the lefty Niese on the mound.

• After Monday's loss, the Mets are in danger of dropping their third straight home series vs. the Reds. Comments