MILWAUKEE (AP) — Dusty Baker thinks Joey Votto needs a day off. The Cincinnati slugger sure looked fit in the eighth inning Monday night.
Votto and Scott Rolen homered on back-to-back pitches in the eighth to break open a tie game and lead the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Reds widened their lead in the National League Central improve to seven games over the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost 4-0 to the Florida Marlins. Cincinnati’s magic number for clinching their first NL Central title since 1995 is six.
“They want it badly, and some of the guys need a rest badly, like Joey in particular,” the Reds manager said. “He’s operating on fumes, but perhaps we’ll win tomorrow and (the Cardinals) lose and then maybe I can give him a day off on Wednesday. He’s dragging.
“He’s certainly done his job big-time,” Baker said. “He’s carried a major portion of this load down the stretch.”
Cincinnati’s Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 37th save in 45 chances.
Aroldis Chapman retired both batters he faced in the eighth, hitting 100 mph on the stadium radar gun in getting Casey McGehee to fly out harmlessly to right to end the inning.
The game was tied at 2 in the eighth when Orlando Cabrera, who had three hits, singled with one out. Votto followed with a towering, opposite-field homer over the Goodwill sign in left-center.
Rolen followed with his 20th home run on the next pitch from Kameron Loe (3-5), lifting Cincinnati to its eighth win in nine games against Milwaukee this season.
It was Votto’s 35th homer and came after he exchanged words with home plate umpire Joe West in the first and sixth innings after striking out looking. He also grounded into a double play in the third inning.
“Every at-bat is its own battle,” Votto said. “I try not to take previous at-bats into following at-bats. I didn’t have a very good game going into that point, but that’s why we play all nine innings.”
Said Baker: “That’s what (MVP candidates) do. A lof times, they limp out there and then they do something fantastic, and then they limp back in.”
Votto is hitting .457 against the Brewers this season with 12 RBI. Rolen is hitting .480 against Milwaukee with 11 RBI.
“Right handers, left handers, he wears them both out,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said of Votto. “I think he hit that ball that wound up in the second deck, so his power is just frightening. It’s a force to deal with in the middle of that lineup, and with Rolen hitting behind him, too, that’s pretty good help for him.”
Drew Stubbs also homered for the Reds, who moved to 56-27 against teams below .500. They are 29-39 against those with winning records.
Nick Masset (4-4) pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings to get the win for the Reds.
Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey pitched well after leaving his start on Wednesday against Arizona with dizziness. He gave up two runs, six hits and three walks in six innings, striking out seven.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Bailey said. “It was good to come back. Every now and then I think a pitcher needs those games where he’s got to work. Throwing that many pitches and walking that many guys definitely tested me out.”
Chris Capuano was just as strong with his fourth straight solid start for Milwaukee, striking out a season-high seven in six innings. He gave up four hits and three walks and threw a season-high 105 pitches — his most pitches since Aug. 19, 2007.
Before this season, Capuano had not pitched in a major league game since Sept. 28, 2007, after having his second Tommy John surgery.
“Physically, this is about the best I’ve felt,” Capuano said. “This is something I really wanted … the opportunity to get a few to several starts in at the end of this year. It’s just been great to get out there and to feel good and to feel healthy.”
The Reds went up 2-0 in the second, as Jonny Gomes singled and Stubbs smacked his 20th homer and fifth in his last 12 games.
Milwaukee made it 2-1 in the third, when Ryan Braun’s RBI groundout scored Rickie Weeks, who had walked. The Brewers tied it in the fifth, as Weeks led off with a double and scored on Braun’s double two batters later.
Braun came into the game batting .388 since August 1, best in the majors.
The Reds retired the last 14 batters after Braun’s double.
Notes: Capuano has a 2.58 ERA over his last four starts and has lowered his season ERA to 3.99. … Weeks is the first Brewers leadoff hitter with 100 runs scored in a season since Fernando Vina had 101 in 1998. … All-Star Reds 2B Brandon Phillips came into the game hitting .132 (9 for 68) with no home runs and two RBIs in his last 16 games, since he returned to the lineup after missing six starts after being hit on the right hand with a pitch. He was 0-for-4 Monday. … Brewers RHP Dave Bush (2-4, 7.07 ERA in his career against the Reds) starts for Milwaukee against Cincinnati RHP Edinson Volquez Tuesday.