Reds hold firm on Votto's MVP-worthy day

Reds hold firm on Votto's MVP-worthy day

LOS ANGELES -- In one big Sunday afternoon, Joey Votto enhanced his National League Most Valuable Player resume while the Reds added another layer of credibility as they fight to win their division.

A 5-2 victory over the Dodgers gave the Reds two of three in the series, eight wins in their last nine games and a fifth win that guaranteed a winning nine-game West Coast road trip. This for a team that until Friday had lost 12 in a row at Dodger Stadium since 2006 and hadn't won a series in Chavez Ravine since 2004.

"You can't help but notice we haven't done much winning in Los Angeles," Votto said. "For us to be the team that finally breaks that streak and gets a winning series on the road, it's a good thing and I think a good sign."

Votto's hitting ensured the Reds would maintain a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals, who beat the Giants, 9-0, earlier in the day. It was a 2-2 game in the Reds' sixth inning when Votto led off and skied Clayton Kershaw's 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats for his 29th homer of the season. It was also the Reds' first homer of the series.

But it was Votto's huge at-bat in the ninth against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton that was worthy of recording on the DVR and a clinic for aspiring hitters to watch. The Reds had the bases loaded with one out when Broxton blew pinch-hitter Scott Rolen away. After ball one, Rolen swung and missed three straight mid-90s mph fastballs.

Broxton seemed poised to do likewise to Votto, who whiffed on two fastballs to fall quickly to a 0-2 count. Votto was clearly mad after the second pitch and kicked at the dirt.

"I got really desperate and wanted to put that ball into play," Votto said. "The ball has to be put into play in that situation. I know these were important runs. I know we needed breathing room."

Votto choked up on the bat and Broxton kept pumping in fastballs 96 mph and higher. Votto fouled three of them off as the count moved to 1-2. Broxton followed with a high slider for ball two and Votto fouled off another slider. The ninth pitch, another fastball, was outside to run the count full.

"He just couldn't put Votto away," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of Broxton.

On pitch No. 10 of the at-bat, Votto lined a 97 mph fastball into left field for a two-run single that scored Paul Janish and Chris Heisey for a three-run lead.

"That's what it's about right there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You have fighting, battling. He fouled off some tough pitches. That's sheer desire and determination right there. That's what good hitters do."

Closer Francisco Cordero shut down the Dodgers with a perfect ninth inning for his 34th save, including his 10th straight.

"It made my job a lot easier with a three-run lead instead of one," Cordero said.

Not only should Votto be a leading contender with the Cardinals' Albert Pujols for MVP, he also has a shot at the Triple Crown. He leads the NL with a .323 average and is third in homers and second behind Pujols with 86 RBIs.

"Without question, if we win this division, he's got to be the MVP of the National League," Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said.

Arroyo (14-7) held up his end with seven very well-pitched innings for his 100th career victory. He allowed two runs and seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

"Bronson was excellent. The best thing about it is he didn't walk anybody," Baker said.

Arroyo allowed Matt Kemp's leadoff homer in the second inning and A.J. Ellis' one-out single in the fifth. He left runners in scoring position that inning. In the sixth, Arroyo gave up an infield single to Ryan Theriot but then struck out the side. He gave up a two-out single in the seventh and escaped before giving way to the bullpen.

It was an important win for the Reds, who head to San Francisco to face the NL Wild Card-contending Giants. St. Louis is catching on again with back-to-back wins over the Giants after it had lost five in a row. The Cardinals start a series Monday at last-place Pittsburgh.

"We're glad we've got a little bit of a cushion," Arroyo said. "We're still going to have to scratch and fight for every win and every out from now until the end of the season to come out on top."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.