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MIL@CIN: Votto's homer gives the Reds the late lead

CINCINNATI -- Whether or not it was the Reds' best win of the year can be debated, but it was certainly in the conversation as one of the most welcomed victories.

A tough 20-day, 20-game slog concluded on a positive note in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Brewers, which came because of a pair of two-run home runs in the late innings by Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

Votto's homer came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, and was responsible for the go-ahead runs that propelled the Reds to taking two of three in the series.

"Best one in a long time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That was huge that we found a way to win the game."

Held scoreless through six innings and mired in a 3-0 deficit, the Reds' offense barely made a whimper with only two hits against Brewers starter Shaun Marcum. One of them was a bunt single.

"Shaun Marcum obviously had a lot to do with it," Votto said. "We ended up getting some big hits at the end of the game, myself and Jay. Jay has obviously been a go-to guy over the past month."

In the Reds' seventh, Votto led off with a lined single through the right side against Marcum. Bruce saw a 0-1 changeup and hit it into the right-field seats for a two-run homer, which represented the first signs of life from the lineup.

That was the National League-leading 17th homer of the season for Bruce, who was coming off a month of May where he slugged a NL-leading 12 homers with 33 RBIs.

There were two outs in the Cincinnati eighth when Brewers reliever Kameron Loe's first pitch hit Brandon Phillips on the right hand. Next was Votto, who launched a 2-1 Loe pitch 439 feet -- and with some serious authority -- off of the batters' eye in center field.

"Honestly, I'm ticked off at myself for hitting Phillips," Loe said. "I mean, I feel like I get a ground ball out of him every time. I got a little jumpy, got ahead of my arm and let it fly. Then, against Votto, I just got one up. I pretty much threw the sinker too hard, it stayed up, and he obviously got a good piece of it. I know he's hit me before."

Has he ever. The matchup played right into the Reds hands, as Votto is now 4-for-7 with three homers lifetime against Loe.

Reds pitcher Mike Leake had a bumpy start early on, but he did a good job of keeping his team in the game, pitching six innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He issued no walks and struck out three.

Rickie Weeks started the night with a leadoff home run against the Reds for the third time this season. Nyjer Morgan followed with a triple to the right-field corner and scored on a Ryan Braun groundout for an early 2-0 Brewers lead. It became a three-run game in the fourth on a one-out RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt.

Leake and the bullpen kept Milwaukee in check from there. Jose Arredondo provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings. In the eighth, after Bill Bray gave up two singles, Nick Masset struck out Corey Hart to suppress the threat and earn the win.

Francisco Cordero pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 10th save and No. 300 of his career, which ties Bruce Sutter for 21st on the all-time list.

Votto declined to place any extra emphasis on the meaning of the game.

"Every single game is equally important," Votto said. "This one was important because we've been losing quite a bit lately."

That's certainly an understatement, as the Reds came in losers of 11 of their previous 14 games. During the stretch of 20-straight games starting on May 12, they had a season-high five-game winning streak, followed by a season-high six-game losing streak. At one point, they were in first place and eight games over .500, and are now 29-28, and third in the NL Central.

The rotation was zapped with Edinson Volquez's demotion to Triple-A, Homer Bailey going on the disabled list and relievers Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney also going on the DL. Of course, there was the 19-inning loss in Philadelphia -- which was one of five one-run losses suffered during the brutal stretch of games.

Finally on Wednesday came a one-run win, which closed the gap behind the second-place Brewers to 1 1/2 games.

"We finally won a series, won a rubber match game that has been eluding us for so long," Baker said. "Hopefully now we'll take this day off and enjoy it. It's been a tough run these last 20 days. Up and down and a lot of emotional swings, mostly down."

At least Thursday's off-day should be spent feeling up.

"It's very, very welcomed," Votto said. Comments