Baker's happiness took all of one inning to dissipate as starting pitcher Edinson Volquez's return from the disabled list lasted just 24 pitches when finger numbness halted his night.
In a nice show of fortitude, the Reds turned Baker's frown upside down with a 5-3 win over the Cardinals. It came courtesy of heavy lifting by five members of the bullpen, which dealt eight innings and allowed only two runs -- one earned. Mike Lincoln (1-0) pitched three innings and was followed by two innings from Daniel Herrera and one inning each by Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes and Francisco Cordero, who made it 14-for-14 in save chances.
"We were talking about it as Lincoln was warming up," Herrera said. "We said we had a lot of work to do. We all knew we'd have to pitch our weight in there. I'm glad we pulled out the win. It's what our bullpen does."
Two double plays and some dazzling defense by shortstop Alex Gonzalez also helped. Cincinnati, just swept in three games at Milwaukee, picked up a game on the first-place Brewers and are 2 1/2 games out in the National League Central.
In the bottom of the first with one out, Volquez gave up a double to Colby Rasmus that went to the right-center-field wall. Albert Pujols followed with an RBI double to center field for a 1-0 St. Louis lead. Volquez, who was on the DL with back spasms, did not return for the second inning. He complained of numbness in the pinkie and ring fingers of his right hand.
"We were trying to figure out how to get through that without using our whole bullpen," said Baker, who only didn't use Carlos Fisher and David Weathers.
Lincoln's first pitch was ripped for a double by Joe Thurston, but he did not score. Rasmus led off the bottom of the third with a home run that gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead. Lincoln, who entered with a 9.00 ERA, had runs allowed in three of his past five outings.
It had all the markings of a doom and gloom evening for the Reds, but they had something totally different in mind.
"Linc [Lincoln] has been struggling some, but he's throwing the ball better," Baker said. "He didn't come out like that with a double right away and the home run. But he didn't give up anymore."
Already this season, Cincinnati has spent extended time without Brandon Phillips, Alex Gonzalez and Edwin Encarnacion because of injuries. Willy Taveras has missed the last three games. Over the weekend, top hitter Joey Votto went on the DL with stress-related issues after he coped with an inner ear infection. The entire infield hasn't played together in over a month.
"It does keep piling on," Baker said. "We'll get whole one of these days."
"The team's resiliency is really incredible under the circumstances we've had to deal with this season," center fielder Chris Dickerson said. "We've come together and picked each other up. We found a way to scrap and claw and keep ourselves in the game."
Cincinnati came back against Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer (5-5) in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Ramon Hernandez drove in Dickerson with an RBI single to right field. A two-run double by Laynce Nix put the Reds ahead. In the fifth, that started with back-to-back singles, Adam Rosales' one-out sacrifice fly scored Ryan Hanigan.
Phillips' RBI single in the seventh against Blaine Boyer extended Cincinnati's lead to three runs. One of Herrera's base runners scored in the St. Louis seventh against Nick Masset on Hanigan's passed ball. But that was as close as the Cardinals could get. Rhodes pitched a perfect eighth and Cordero finished it with a one-hit ninth.
The bullpen was taxed over the weekend and has now worked 14 innings over the last three games.
"It started out awful losing a pitcher like Edinson," Herrera said. "That's going to take a toll on us. But someone has to fill his shoes and help the team out. For us to beat them without Volky, is huge."