This is my first pennant race. Every game we're playing right now has meaning, and I want every game the rest of the way to matter, too. That helps make coming to the park fun.

Last year at this time, we weren't in this position. It was frustrating at times because I wanted to have that playing-for-something attitude everyday. But all I could do was do my best to help the team win and build for the following year. You don't really want to come to the ballpark to play for the following year.

Since then, however, we've become a more complete team. Defensively, we're a lot better, and we also have a lot more team speed. Our pitching has been upgraded, too.

There have been stretches when our pitching has really carried us, not just here and there, but stretches when it was really almost impossible for us to lose because we were pitching so well. We're looking forward to a few more stretches like that. Then, hopefully, we can catch fire with our bats. Hopefully, we can make a little run now.

Last year, the Cubs ran away with our division. This year, it seems like everyone still has a chance, including us. There are five teams within striking difference in our division, and we're only 5 1/2 games out.

It's great that we can give Cincinnati fans something to look forward to and something to enjoy. It's such a great baseball town -- so many people live and die with the Reds -- we want to head in the direction of being a competitive team, a winning team and, ultimately, a championship team.

Joey Votto, a cornerstone of the Reds' rebuilding movement, is hitting .345 with 13 home runs and 45 RBIs in his third big league season. Last year, he batted .297 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs.