Votto, Reds end hitting slumps

Published 3:03 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto snapped out of a slump, and so did the Cincinnati Reds.

Votto tied a career best with four hits and scored the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Chris Heisey’s ninth-inning single, capping a comeback from a three-run deficit and leading the Reds over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 Wednesday.

The Reds avoided a three-game sweep by the defending World Series champions, who won just one of six games in Cincinnati last season. The Reds went 3-3 on their opening homestand and headed off for an 11-day, 10-game trip.

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“I don’t think salvage is a fair word,” said Votto, who entered with a .188 average. “We’re just trying to find some momentum. It would’ve been pretty frustrating to go on the road if we hadn’t won this game. The Cardinals played well. They’ve got a good team. They won the World Series. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and they’re certainly in the way.”

Votto doubled off Marc Rzepczynski (0-1) leading off the ninth for the 10th four-hit game of his career. Ryan Ludwick was intentionally walked, Jay Bruce struck out, Fernando Salas relieved and Heisey lined a single to left.

“There was no doubt, right off the bat,” Heisey said. “It was a good feeling to get the barrel of the bat on it.”

Heisey’s hit was Cincinnati’s 14th. The Reds came in batting .201, and manager Dusty Baker said he was confident his offense would pick up.

“You just don’t know when they’re going to start hitting the ball,” Baker said. “It was sure nice to see them come around today. That was a big win for us to end the homestand well and not get too far behind. I know it’s early, but you don’t want to get too far behind.”

Aroldis Chapman (2-0), groomed as a starter during spring training before injuries forced the Reds to keep him in the bullpen, struck out five in two scoreless innings.

“I feel great,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “I prefer to be a starter, but they decided to put me back in the bullpen, and I’m happy with that. That’s my job — to hold the other team and let my team get back in the game.”

Reds starter Johnny Cueto gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings.

Down 3-0 in the third against Jaime Garcia, the Reds tied the score in the fifth. Garcia, 6-1 against the Reds, allowed three runs and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings.

“I wasn’t the best,” Garcia said. “I was battling. It’s part of the game. I don’t want to make excuses. They have a good lineup. I was getting ahead, but I wasn’t putting them away. I have to work on that in my next bullpen.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny believed his players were a little overmatched against Cueto, especially with regulars Lance Berkman, David Freese and Carlos Beltran getting the day off. Freese, last year’s World Series Most Valuable Player, struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth, ending his season-opening hitting streak at six games.

“We tried to steal one there,” Matheny said. “We tried to grind it out. Cueto is a tough customer, but we put together some good at-bats. Jaime made too many mistakes up in the zone. He’s a touch-and-feel guy, and when he doesn’t feel it, he has trouble. Under different circumstances, he could have gone longer, but he had a rough fifth inning. His pitch count was OK, but he labored with them.”

St. Louis took a 3-0 lead in the third on Garcia’s two-out single, Rafael Furcal’s RBI triple into the right-field corner and Jon Jay’s two-run homer, his first home run this season.

Votto doubled in a run in the third, when Garcia escaped a two-on, no-outs jam by striking out Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce, then retiring Miguel Cairo on a groundout. Votto’s double gave the Reds seven hits, matching their total in the first two games on the series.

Bruce’s sacrifice fly and Wilson Valdez’s run-scoring bunt single tied the score in the fifth.

NOTES: Concerns over Monday’s left hamstring forced Reds 2B Brandon Phillips to miss his second consecutive start since agreeing to a $72.5 million, six-year contract. Manager Dusty Baker expects Phillips to miss three or four days. … Cardinals 1B Lance Berkman didn’t start after leaving Tuesday’s game in the eighth inning with tightness in his left calf.