Votto stays hot, sends Reds past Mets

Votto stays hot, sends Reds past Mets

CINCINNATI -- Some players occasionally pay lip service to talking about trying to help their team. When Reds first baseman Joey Votto talks about the team being first, he really means it.

Votto had a huge opening series against the Mets -- 7-for-13 (.538) with two home runs and seven RBIs. But the only time he could really savor his individual output was Thursday, when his 3-for-5, four-RBI game helped the Reds take an 8-6 win. The victory prevented a three-game series sweep by the Mets.

"[Wednesday] night, it was so frustrating, because I had such a good game and it didn't produce anything. It really reminds you of how humbling this game is," said Votto, who added another three-run homer in the third inning off usually tough lefty Oliver Perez.

It looked bleak for the Reds early on, as Perez befuddled their lineup for two innings. Of the six straight batters Perez retired, the last four were strikeouts. Meanwhile, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who has been bothered lately by carpal tunnel issues in his right arm and nearly had his outing pushed back, had a rocky beginning.

The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third after four straight batters reached on Arroyo with two outs, including Ryan Church with a two-run double.

Lefty hitters had a .158 batting average against Perez last season but he couldn't stop the best one the Reds had to offer in Votto. The first baseman took over as the wheels came off of the pitcher's performance in the third.

After Willy Taveras drew a two-out walk, Darnell McDonald hit an RBI single to center field. Next was Votto, who hit an 0-1 hanging slider into the right-center field seats for a three-run homer and 4-3 Reds lead.

"You like to answer right back. It doesn't always happen," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They scored three and we came right back with four. That's a big emotional turn right there, to stop them from adding on to the lead."

It was 4-4 in the fifth for Perez (0-1) when the speedy Taveras dropped a bunt single to the left of home plate. McDonald drew a walk to set up more damage from Votto from the third spot in the order.

"From there, Perez got a little wild, because he was slidestepping and concerned about Willy," Baker said. "A lot of times, you put some thoughts in the opposition and they try to do things they don't normally do."

Votto lined an RBI single to right-center field that scored Taveras for his fourth RBI. After Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly, Paul Janish's seeing-eye single off Mets reliever Darren O'Day provided insurance and a four-run Reds lead. Cincinnati scored 15 runs in the last two games.

Church added a second double leading off the sixth and scored on Alex Cora's sacrifice fly. Arroyo finished with five earned runs and eight hits allowed over six innings, with two walks and four strikeouts.

"It's a great game for me, a great win, knowing I wasn't going to be 100 percent," Arroyo said. "I was battling to give this team a chance to win and they pulled through. Joey Votto is as hot as anybody in the game right now. I'll take an eight spot every time out. If that happens, we probably won't lose too many games."

In the seventh with Jared Burton pitching, the Reds' lead narrowed to two when Daniel Murphy came home on David Wright's sacrifice fly. Arthur Rhodes and David Weathers held it down with 1 2/3 scoreless relief innings. Closer Francisco Cordero slammed the door by striking out the side in the ninth for his first save.

It was a chance to exhale for the Reds, who were trying to avoid starting the season 0-3.

"It's real important for your confidence, your mind-set and your attitude," Baker said. "Every time you lose one, the pressure mounts until you get your first one."

Votto was also relieved his efforts weren't for naught this time. Last season as a rookie, he hit 24 homers and drove in 84 runs while batting .297. This year, he is a more focal part of the Reds' offense and his production is more directly tied to the performance of the team.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work. It didn't Wednesday night, but did in a major way Thursday afternoon.

"My mind-set personally is more team oriented," Votto said. "Last year, I was concentrating on a lot of personal things trying to get myself established as a Major Leaguer. This is totally different. I have a mind-set of being a better Cincinnati Red and a better team. We have to do better this year.

"This year, I want to play well, because I know I'm an important part of the team. I want to help create wins."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.