CINCINNATI -- Even though the confident Reds were down by two runs to the Brewers going into the bottom of the ninth, they acted like they had Milwaukee right where they wanted them. That's how well things are going for Cincinnati these days. Sure enough, a three-run inning that featured five straight batters reaching base gave the Reds a 5-4 walk-off win -- their ninth victory in the last 10 games. It was also the 16th win in the last 21, and it maintained their hold of first place in the National League Central. After getting a break from the starting lineup, Scott Rolen hit a pinch-hit, game-tying two-run home run off of Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman. Joey Votto's long RBI single off the right-field wall scored Chris Heisey with the winning run.
"It wasn't a matter of, 'Are we going to come back?' It was, 'When is this going to happen?'" said Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey, who pitched seven innings for a no-decision. "We just have that much confidence right now. It doesn't matter who we're playing." Hoffman (1-3) might be the all-time saves leader, but he now has five blown saves in 10 chances this season and a 13.15 ERA after not retiring a batter in the ninth. The Reds were trailing, 4-2, when Paul Janish led off with a lined single into center field. That brought up Rolen to pinch-hit. Rolen fell behind 0-2 but sent a 1-2 changeup into the left-field seats for the two-run home run that perked up the crowd of 17,697 fans at Great American Ball Park. Rolen is 6-for-13 with four home runs lifetime against Hoffman but couldn't explain that successful history. "He's the all-time saves leader. I certainly don't look forward to facing him," Rolen said. "I've seen the ball fairly well off of him in the past. I saw the ball well today. Imagine my surprise when the thing went out. You think you were shocked?" The inning continued with Heisey hitting a ball near the line in left field and hustling all the way to second base for a double. "Heisey's speed is what really caused that," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was barely safe at second, but the fact he can run, you like that speed." Brandon Phillips was willing to sacrifice, but he took three straight balls before walking on five pitches. That left it up to Votto, who sharply lined Hoffman's first pitch all the way to the right-field wall. It was almost too hard as the ball skipped straight to right fielder Corey Hart, who threw to the cut-off man. But it was too late as Heisey scored easily without the relay. Votto touched first base and tried to run off the field before he was mobbed by celebrating teammates. "It's a big situation with runners on first and second," Votto said. "I'm trying to get the guys to second and third at the very least. Obviously, I'm trying to drive them in, too. I can't hit into a double play. I have to at least put the ball in the air or on the line somehow. I got a pretty good pitch to hit and ended up striking it pretty good." That gave the 23-16 Reds their 10th victory in their last at-bat this season. Before Rolen was given a rest, Baker offered it first to Votto, who had played a lot lately and appeared a little worn down. Votto wanted no part of it. "I want to play every single day. I don't want to be out of the lineup, ever," Votto said. Think of what he could have missed. In the eighth inning with a 4-1 score, he launched a 460-foot home run onto the riverboat deck above the batters' eye in center field off of reliever Marco Estrada, who had retired his first nine in a row during his Brewers debut. "He put it on the boat," said an amazed Bailey, who allowed two runs and four hits. He gave up only one hit after a 30-pitch first inning where Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead. With his team trailing, 2-1, in the top of the seventh, Baker tried to get some long dormant relievers some work. But the bullpen didn't do its job as three relievers gave up two runs. Both were charged to Mike Lincoln, who hadn't pitched since Friday. He gave up an infield single and a walk. Daniel Ray Herrera struck out Prince Fielder but gave up Casey McGehee's RBI single. Carlos Fisher (1-1), idle since May 7, threw a wild pitch that scored Ryan Braun. Fisher gave up a walk and a hit in the ninth but escaped when Phillips made a nice leaping catch on Alcides Escobar's two-out line drive to the right side. "To have been down 4-1 and 4-2 and come back in the last inning against arguably the greatest closer of all time, that says a lot," Votto said. "I think the guys on the team felt like we had a real good shot."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.