Instead, an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals denied the Reds what they desired -- a three-game sweep of the National League Central's first-place team.
Owings' long ball trumped Votto's earlier shot. He entered in a double switch in the top of the seventh to loud applause. Leading off the bottom of the frame, Votto hit a homer to left field, his fourth of the season, off Kyle McClellan.In the top of the 10th inning against Francisco Cordero (0-2), Colby Rasmus hit a one-out RBI double to right-center field that had Joe Thurston scoring from first base with the go-ahead run. A final Reds rally came up short in the bottom half of the 10th, despite featuring runners on first and second with no outs. After getting a 2-0 count from reliever Blaine Bowyer, Hairston missed two sacrifice bunt attempts before striking out. "Usually he doesn't go for those pitches," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "[Boyer] couldn't find the plate. Usually Jerry is very fundamentally sound and comes through almost all the time in that situation." Cincinnati would end the game stranding the bases loaded when pinch-hitter Paul Janish fouled out. "It would have been huge," Baker said about the near-win. "That gives us something to keep fighting for and lets you know what you can do. It lets you know you're never out of the game." The sweep may have vanished in their hands, but the Reds sent the message they wanted. "I think we did," Bruce said. "We played well. We can beat anybody in this league. We've shown that." Cincinnati still took two of three from St. Louis and finished with a 3-2 homestand while chugging ahead largely without big hitters like Votto and Brandon Phillips. Good pitching and lots of slack were picked up to sustain the club while they were shorthanded. The 17-14 Reds are tied for third place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals. Not a bad place to be, considering the alternative. But it could have been even better, and everyone knew it. "Foremost is we were in line to get a sweep," Baker said. "We could have been a half a game out instead of 2 1/2 games right now. That's why it was so big. We'll be around for a long time."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.