The hit extended Votto’s hitting streak to five games and since returning from his benching he is 9 for 20 (.450) with three home runs.
“We had to get a win, we have to get going,” Votto said on Fox Sports Ohio. “I’ve been trusting my ability and we’ve been working on this for quite a while now.
“We gotta win now, we gotta win this year because we have a good team,” he added. “We’re going to push this to the very end. We haven’t given up on ourselves and we don’t even talk like that. That’s not the language in our clubhouse.”
Votto said that his three-game benching put wonderment in his head and said he wondered if that was how it was going to end for him.
But. . .not so fast.
“Joey has been up in that situation more than anybody and has come through so many times in his career,” said Reds manger David Bell. “There is pressure in that and he wants to come through. He is in a real good place now in his approach at the plate. There is nobody you want more up there than Joey in that situation.”
Reds starter Tyler Mahle matched his career-best by pitching seven innings, giving up three runs and four hits, leaving with the 3-3 tie.
“I try to go out and make sure I’m doing my job,” said Mahle. “I do what I can do because that’s all I can control, especially since we’re not hitting.”
The Reds produced only four hits — three runs and three hits over 4 2/3 innings against St. Louis starter Johan Oviedo.
After he left, the Reds didn’t have a hit until Votto’s game-winner in the ninth. Mahle, along with Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias, kept the Cardinals quiet.
“What was good today was my fastball and I was able to create weak contact with it, a lot of weak fly balls,” said Mahle.
The Cardinals struck first against Mahle when clean-up hitter Brad Miller led the second with a 423-foot home run over the center field wall, his third homer in two games.
The Reds matched that run in the bottom of the second on Eugenio Suarez’s leadoff double and a walk to Mike Moustakas — two on no outs.
The next two Reds struck out but Akiyama saved the inning with a two-out run-scoring single to tie it, 1-1.
The Cardinals pushed ahead, 3-1, in the fifth on Yadier Molina’s leadoff home run, a double by Tyler O’Neill and a two-out run-scoring double by Kolten Wong.
Once again the Reds drew even in the bottom of the inning when Akiyama was hit by a pitch and Tucker Barnhart drilled a two-run home run and it was 3-3.
The Reds threatened in the seventh on a pair of walks before relief pitcher John Gant threw a 3-and-2 fastball on the inside corner that Jesse Winker took for strike three, ending the inning.
St. Louis put two on with nobody out in the ninth. Strangely, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had Molina, one of baseball’s best clutch hitters, lay down a bunt.
That put runners on third and second with one out and the Reds intentionally walked Matt Carpenter to fill the bases.
Iglesias then struck out Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas to keep it at 3-3.
“We had a guy out there that we believe in, a guy who has been in that situation more than anybody,” said Bell. “Our backs were against the wall and he was able to pitch out of it. It wasn’t an easy decision to load the bases (intentional walk to Carpenter,) but when you have Raisel on the mound you trust that he can throw strikes and the stuff to get a couple of tough hitters out.”
That set it up for Votto’s game-ending heroics and a post-game ice water bath over his head provided by Winker.
If ever the Reds are going to plug the holes in what has been a listing ship, now is the time. They head to Pittsburgh for a four-game series against the last-place Pirates, beginning with a doubleheader (two seven-inning games) Friday night in PNC Park.