MIL@CIN: Cozart tracks down Gomez for a smart tag

CINCINNATI -- Going into their series finale against the Cardinals on Sunday night, the Reds led the Majors with a .989 fielding percentage, as well as having committed the fewest errors in baseball, with 19. Cincinnati also led the National League in ultimate zone rating (20.4), an advanced metric used to quantify the number of runs saved through defense.

Manager Bryan Price said he's pleased with the defensive effort of his club, a bright spot amid a season that has been trying to this point due to several injuries to key players.

"I'm very satisfied by that, and the players must be as well," Price said Saturday. "These guys work at it, not just in Spring Training, but if you go out early out on the field, you'll see guys taking ground balls and working on their defense. … So I think it's through having the athletes and the work and the investment they put into it. It tells you how much they appreciate the importance of good defense."

Zack Cozart has been excellent at shortstop, going into Sunday's action ranked second among all NL shortstops with a 5.7 ultimate zone rating.

Brandon Phillips entered Sunday leading all Major League second basemen with a 4.3 ultimate zone rating, and tied for fourth in the Majors in fielding percentage among second basemen (.995). He had committed just one error in 203 chances.

"There's nobody better to watch, really, than to go out and watch Brandon play," Price said. "He practices all of the plays that look like they're almost impossible to make other than the way he makes them. … These things that he does that are so miraculous, there are people that might say, 'Oh, he's hot-dogging it,' but he's not . … He works on things he may have to do during the game, not just the routine plays."

Marshall feeling good in spite of results

"I'm feeling stronger and stronger each game," said Sean Marshall.

CINCINNATI -- In a short amount of time, the hits have been piling up against Reds left-handed reliever Sean Marshall. The results have been far from satisfactory -- for the club or himself.

Entering Sunday, opposing hitters were batting .400 (18-for-45) against Marshall over 8 2/3 innings in his 10 games this season. Along with a 10.38 ERA, he's seen five of his 11 inherited runners score.

Marshall was limited to 16 appearances last season because of shoulder injuries, and he began this season on the disabled list with more shoulder soreness. The struggles are not related to health issues, he asserted.

"My shoulder feels good. It's kind of a feel thing," Marshall said on Sunday. "It's a combination of some missed locations, some bad luck, and just not being as sharp as I'd like. But I'm feeling better. My arm strength is almost completely back. It's just a matter of being a little better."

While Reds manager Bryan Price has conceded that Marshall's stuff isn't 100 percent yet, Price felt that Marshall wasn't rushed back too soon. Price also thinks Marshall is close to turning the corner.

"I really believe that he did everything he could do before we activated him to be ready to pitch," Price said. "He just hasn't gotten all the way back to being the guy that we know. He's not just one of the better situational lefties, he's one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. He's a legitimate top-shelf late-inning relief pitcher, and extremely reliable, but he's just not there yet."

During Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Cardinals, Marshall replaced Logan Ondrusek in the eighth inning of a 4-2 game with runners on second and third with one out. Following two curveballs that put Jon Jay in an 0-2 count, a fastball over the middle of the plate was hit hard up the middle for an RBI single. Another run scored on the next pitch -- a slider -- when Matt Adams hit an RBI single.

"I'm feeling stronger and stronger each game," Marshall said. "I feel like that [Saturday], I made just one bad pitch with its location. I tried to throw the fastball way up high, tried to change it up after the breaking ball, and went back to it and cut it back down the middle. It's been the story of all these hits I've been giving up. It's just missing my spots. I'm not as crisp and sharp as I'd like, but I've been throwing flat grounds, long toss and bullpen [sessions], and kind of honing back up. The breaking ball is back to where it's got to be. My arm speed is good. I feel like I'm very close to being my old self again."

Reds' national exposure comes with schedule downside

Bryan Price said his team must embrace the schedule.

CINCINNATI -- For the first time this season, the Reds were featured on the Sunday-night national telecast by ESPN when they hosted the Cardinals in their three-game series finale.

The downside to the 8 p.m. ET game is what was next. The Reds were slated to fly overnight to Los Angeles, where they were scheduled to land at 2:45 a.m. PT, and then open a three-game series vs. the Dodgers at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Monday. The Cardinals were to fly back to St. Louis for a Monday-afternoon game vs. the Yankees.

"We both benefit from the national exposure, and that's good for our club," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's not great -- the travel for both teams -- especially us going to Los Angeles to play a 5 p.m. game, going through three time zones. That won't be an excuse for our play. We need to come out there and play well in this series in L.A. But it wouldn't be the way that any of us would draw it up, by any means. You have to embrace the fact that we're on a national stage, take advantage of that, and play a good ballgame."

Worth noting

• Reds pitcher Mat Latos made his first rehab-assignment start for Triple-A Louisville vs. Buffalo on Sunday. Latos pitched four innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. Of his 49 pitches, 32 were strikes. Latos, who has been out all season because of multiple injuries, is expected to have at least three rehab games in the Minors.