CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto is well aware that he's not having a Joey Votto-like season for the Reds, and his disappointment could be heard in the upper reaches of Great American Ball Park for a moment on Tuesday, well before his walk-off home run provided a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Cardinals.
In the fifth inning, Votto could be heard yelling at himself over a crowd 24,182 fans after he sent a first-pitch cutter from Mike Leake to left field for a routine out. Votto was also unhappy about striking out in the seventh vs. reliever Dean Kiekhefer.
"Yeah, I'm hitting .220," Votto said. I'm hitting .220 and it's June. I'm frustrated," he said. "And we're losing a lot. Priority No. 1 -- I'd be perfectly fine hitting .220, because I know at the end of the year I'll be fine, but it's a combination of things. We're losing, and today we didn't lose -- we won. It's a good feeling."
That feeling was courtesy of Votto himself in the bottom of the ninth against lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, a pitcher against whom he came into the night 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in 15 plate appearances. He lifted a 2-0 fastball from Siegrist, and the ball landed in the Reds' bullpen in left-center field.
It was especially welcomed by a Reds team that blew a 6-1 lead by allowing five runs over the final two innings.
"I knew Joey was going to hit," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I felt like he was going to be able to bring his focus to that at-bat, and he might give us the best at-bat against Siegrist in the ninth. And he did.
"He laid off two pitches to get to 2-0, and he attacked a high 2-0 fastball and he put a great swing on it. … I'm really happy for Joey. He's put in a ton of hard work. It's starting to pay some dividends for sure."
Votto, who also hit a double against Leake in the first inning, is batting .225/.346./.440 amid the deepest hitting struggles of his career. Pitchers have been able to exploit weaknesses like never before, with a strong diet of off-speed pitches and working him inside. His production numbers are well below the high bar he's set for his career as a .307/.420/.529 hitter.
Over his last eight games, Votto is batting .357 (10-for-28), and he has five home runs over his last 11 games.
Despite his uptick, Votto wasn't ready to say he had emerged from his two-plus-month funk.
"You're never out of it, and you're never in it," Votto said. "It's such a long season, you have to come to the ballpark every day with the attitude that you're only as good as today. You're only as good as what you have today, and it's an accumulation of hopefully 650-750 opportunities to prove that."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.