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Votto homers, lifts Reds over Dodgers
Updated: Saturday, September 7 2013, 01:21 AM EDT
CINCINNATI (AP)-- Joey Votto emerged from his deep slump when the Reds really needed him.
Votto singled and hit a two-run homer on Friday night, leading Cincinnati to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers that kept its momentum going in the NL Central race.
The 2010 NL MVP has been having a tough time, watching his batting average fall to .300 after he led the league at .361 on May 24. The Reds got a run in the fourth when Votto ended his 0-for-13 slump with a single off Stephen Fife, Jay Bruce singled and Ryan Ludwick grounded into a double play.
Votto hit a two-run homer -- his 22nd -- off J.P. Howell (2-1) in the fifth inning for a 3-2 lead.
"This is one game," Votto said. "You're only as good as your last at-bat."
His last at-bat on Friday? The decisive homer.
"Joey coming through was a big thing for us," said Mike Leake, who went 7 2/3 innings. "When you're in a slump, it's tough -- not that his was a big one. I'm glad for him."
Manager Dusty Baker asked Votto if he wanted a day off Friday to regroup. Votto decided to play and broke out.
"It started with the base hit up the middle," Baker said. "You guys know the stats. I knew he was 0-for-something. He came through at the right time. You can't hold a good man down for long."
While the Reds were relieved, the Dodgers got another concern for their pitching staff. The NL West leaders lost Chris Capuano to a mild groin strain in the second inning, when he grimaced on a pitch to Zack Cozart. Already this week, the Dodgers had to push Hyun-Jin Ryu back from a scheduled start because of a sore back.
"It is something I've had before but I've been able to keep it at bay," Capuano said. "I just felt it grab on a pitch to Cozart. I didn't hear it pop or anything. I hope it's a mild strain. I have to wait to see how it feels tomorrow. I've felt great the last couple of games."
Leake (12-6) emerged from his recent slump, helping the Reds get their fourth win in their last five games. He allowed five hits, including Hanley Ramirez's two-run homer.
Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the fourth day in a row, fanned three in the ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances. It was only the eighth time in his career that the hard-throwing lefty went four days in a row.
"We know down the stretch we're going to play a lot of close games," Baker said. "We know down the stretch our closer is going to have to go multiple games."
The third-place Reds kept their momentum going from a successful series against the St. Louis Cardinals that tightened the NL Central race. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds are all in good position to reach the playoffs -- one as the division champ, the other two as wild cards.
Los Angeles has taken control of the West by going 36-10 since the All-Star break. The Dodgers want to get the NL's top rotation fully healthy for the playoffs.
Capuano has never lost at Great American Ball Park, going 3-0 in eight games. The groin strain prevented him from trying to add to the total.
The left-hander has been on the disabled list twice this season. He was sidelined from April 17 to May 6 with a strained left calf and from May 30 to June 19 with a strained left shoulder.
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was in the lineup a day after he left a game because of a sore left thigh. He singled in the eighth off Paco Rodriguez and was replaced by Billy Hamilton, who stole second, leaving him 3 for 3 in attempts since his promotion. Rodriguez walked the bases loaded, but Brian Wilson got Ryan Ludwick to line into a double play as he escaped the threat.
Right fielder Yasiel Puig was back for the Dodgers after a sore right knee limited him to pinch-hitting status the last two games. He had an infield single.
PHOTO: CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 6: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds makes a play at first base against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the game at Great American Ball Park on September 6, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)