The Reds have been remarkably successful without Votto, posting a 31-14 record without their franchise first baseman since he left the lineup on July 16, but have anxiously awaited his return for weeks.
The club originally expected Votto to return to the lineup this weekend after his rehab stint in Class A Dayton, but it's looking like his presence may be a little delayed, as the Reds don't want to rush their superstar's return.
"I wouldn't rule it out, but I would probably prefer that he didn't, to tell you the truth," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of Votto joining the team in Houston for the series against the Astros. "We need him really ready when he gets here, in all departments."
After their 9-3 win in the series opener against the Astros on Friday, the Reds became the first team to 81 wins this season.
But don't get it wrong. The Reds are still itching to have their franchise first baseman back.
"You can get by for a while, but sooner or later, you need your big boy," Baker said. "He's your equalizer against a real tough pitcher. Plus, when he comes back, he sets my lineup the way that it should be. Right now, things are set the way they have to be to give us the best chance to win."
The Reds are hoping to continue their winning ways as they send Homer Bailey to the mound Saturday.
Bailey (10-9, 4.24 ERA) allowed five runs on nine hits to the Cardinals in six innings on Sunday. Five of the nine hits came with two outs.
He'll face off against Astros starter Lucas Harrell, who is coming off a solid outing on Sunday against the Mets in New York despite not earning a win.
Harrell (10-9, 3.92 ERA) pitched seven innings against the Mets, allowing just one solo home run and a single.
"No matter what the score is, if I go out there and I pitch my game and keep us close, we'll have a chance to win," Harrell said. "One day you have a good game, one day you have a bad one. You've just got to hang in there and battle every time out."
Reds: Frazier will still see time when Votto returns
Votto's eventual return will mean less playing time for one of the Reds' recent contributors, most likely rookie Todd Frazier.
Frazier, a strong National League Rookie of the Year candidate, has taken over the majority of the time at first base in Votto's absence.
He's hitting .309 since Votto left the lineup July 16, with eight homers and 32 RBIs, but Baker said he'll be coming off the bench once Votto returns.
It won't be the end of the road for Frazier, though, as Baker said he plans to plug in his remarkable rookie at first base, third base and left field when Votto, Scott Rolen or Ryan Ludwick need a day off.
Despite all the hype surrounding top prospect Billy Hamilton, the club said he will likely not receive a callup this September.
Hamilton, 21, and currently at Double-A Pensacola, has tallied a record 154 steals in the Minors this season.
"We haven't made a final determination," said Reds general manager Walt Jocketty. "I'm going to go watch him this weekend, but probably not. He's going to go to instructional league and the fall league. He needs a little break. There are a lot of variables involved."
Astros: Gonzalez has torn ligament in ankle
An MRI revealed on Friday that Astros infielder Marwin Gonzalez has a torn ligament in his left ankle after he was injured during Thursday's loss against the Giants.
Gonzalez tried to beat out a throw from Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the ninth inning and landed awkwardly on first base.
Gonzalez won't be placed on the disabled list but could miss the rest of the season. He's hitting .234 with 13 doubles and 12 RBIs this year.
The Reds reached 80 wins in their 132nd game, their fastest since the 1976 World Series champions got 80 wins in their 125th game.
Harrell leads all NL rookies in innings pitched (158 1/3) and is second in wins (10). Harrell is also the only NL rookie to throw a shutout in 2012.