"Boy that was some performance in front of his home people here in Toronto," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
This game could have gone down as a huge morale crusher had it not been for Votto. The Reds had already come in with a four-game losing streak and losses in nine of the previous 12. They watched starter Johnny Cueto blow a 4-0 first-inning lead. On top of that, they were trying to avoid a Toronto three-game series sweep and pick up a game on three division rivals that lost earlier in the day.
"I was running out of material," Baker said. "It's the hardest thing about losing, talking after losing."
Votto, who had his 9-year-old twin brothers in the clubhouse with him before the game, saved Baker from that issue on Thursday.
"I always want to play well, definitely in front of family and friends, I wanted to play well," said Votto, who was a triple short of hitting for the cycle. "But had I had that big game tonight and we would have lost, it would have been really disappointing to have left here being swept. Getting the 'W' was far more important."
The Reds had jumped all over Blue Jays rookie starter Brett Cecil in the top of the first using four doubles to take the four-run lead. With two outs, Votto hit an RBI double to left field and scored on Jonny Gomes' two-base hit to right-center field. After Ramon Hernandez walked, Jay Bruce hit a two-run double to left field.
Coming off of a start where he blew a 5-0 lead in a Reds loss to the White Sox on Saturday, Cueto let this lead slip away, too. In the Toronto first inning, Aaron Hill hit a homer to left field. After the Reds added a run in the second on a Votto RBI single, the biggest damage came during a four-run bottom of the fifth where Cueto walked two batters, including the leadoff hitter. Vernon Wells made Cueto pay with a sharply lined two-run double to left field. The next batter, Scott Rolen, chopped a two-run single through the middle and made it a 5-5 game.
According to Votto, no one got discouraged in the Reds dugout.
"I really think we're a resilient bunch," he said.
Cueto (7-4) finished with six innings pitched with five earned runs and five hits allowed with three walks and four strikeouts. He was able to still emerge with a win because of Votto.
Leading off the top of the seventh, Votto jumped on the first pitch slider he saw from reliever Shawn Camp (0-3). It went over the right-field fence for the game-winner as a smattering of cheers from the 15,329 fans at Rogers Centre overtook the booing from the hometown crowd.
The Reds, who notched 15 hits, added an insurance run in the eighth when Paul Janish scored on a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by Willy Taveras. Nick Masset, David Weathers and Francisco Cordero followed Cueto with three scoreless innings as Cordero notched his 18th save.
Cincinnati's record is a not-so-pretty 35-36, but this win left the club as very respectable 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central Division.
Votto is now batting .362 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs this season. He returned from a 22-game stint on the disabled list on Tuesday, when he revealed publicly for the first time that he was battling depression and anxiety attacks that stem from the August death of his father.
"It's good to get back here and have a night like he did," Bruce said. "Everyone knows he's capable of it but getting four hits any time is tough. He's a big part of our lineup. It's good to have him back."
When Baker was told by Votto he was ready to return after only four rehab assignment games, he took him at his word.
"He's as honest of a guy you'll find," Baker said. "If he says he was ready to come back, we welcome him back with open arms."
Votto wouldn't say life was back to normal yet but he indicated it was headed in the right direction.
"The beautiful thing about baseball is there's always a new day and always a game, one after another," Votto said. "It kind of parallels life sometimes. Every single day, you always get a new one. It's nice feeling good without having to think of the problems I've been having. Yesterday was a good step and today was an even better step."