A matchup of aces -- the Reds' Johnny Cueto and the Yankees' CC Sabathia -- certainly lived up to the billing for most of the game. But when Cueto finally blinked in the sixth by giving up a two-run homer to Raul Ibanez to snap a scoreless tie, making those runs up seemed like a tall order vs. Sabathia.
Cincinnati answered, and then some.
Ludwick, who had missed two games with a sore left elbow and came in struggling with a .183 average, led off the seventh with a first-pitch homer into the left-field seats. It was his first long ball since April 24 and fourth of the season. Two batters later with one out, Ryan Hanigan made it a 2-2 game with his first homer of the season that also landed beyond the fence in left field.
"Thank God, I felt really, really happy when we scored those two runs to tie the game," said Cueto through an interpreter.
There was more to come as the Reds kept the pressure on Sabathia. Zack Cozart kept the inning going with a single that skipped off Sabathia at the mound. With two outs, Drew Stubbs and Joey Votto walked to load the bases for Brandon Phillips. Initially down in a 1-2 count, Phillips also worked a walk on Sabathia's 116th pitch that forced home the go-ahead run.
"Absolutely, that was huge," Hanigan said. "It hadn't been happening for us, really. The momentum we got back, tying the game, taking the lead. Johnny was fired up again, and it gave him a chance to get the win and put us back in the position we needed to be."
Sabathia finished with three runs, six hits and five walks allowed over seven innings while striking out six. He began the game by keeping the Reds hitless until Todd Frazier's one-out single in the fifth.
"Walking those guys really hurt," Sabathia said. "Not making pitches and trying to overthrow and do too much when it was probably time to back off and let myself make a good pitch."
Cueto retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh. He spent much of the game matching Sabathia with zeros but needed to escape more jams. In the third after getting a double play, Cueto walked back-to-back hitters on four pitches but got Alex Rodriguez to hit a first-pitch fly ball to right field. In the fourth with the leadoff hitter on, Cueto got an inning-ending double play.
"We were battling the whole game long. [Sabathia is] their No. 1 guy, and I am the No. 1 guy here, too," said Cueto, who improved to 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA. "We both wanted to work hard and see who ends up with the win at the end. I got it done. This is a hitter's park. They're a really good team. I'm really happy with how the game came out at the end."
Cueto began the bottom of the eighth with Curtis Granderson hitting a leadoff single, which prompted manager Dusty Baker to reveal a changing of the guard in the Reds' bullpen.
Lefty Sean Marshall, previously the closer who could not complete a save in the ninth on Saturday, entered in the eighth and struck out Robinson Cano on three pitches. It was Marshall's only batter. Right-hander Logan Ondrusek took over to face Rodriguez, who launched a first pitch to left field that seemed headed out but was caught on the warning track by Chris Heisey. Ibanez popped out to keep Cueto in line for a victory.
Following back-to-back two-out singles by Phillips and Jay Bruce in the ninth, Ludwick notched some huge insurance with a two-run double to left field. That provided ample padding for Aroldis Chapman, who emerged to close.
Chapman faced four batters and had one reach on an error. But working for the fourth time in five days, he had plenty of gas. He struck out Andruw Jones with a 98-mph fastball to end the game.
"I never felt bad. I felt great the whole time," Chapman said through an interpreter. "It never went through my mind the fact that I was pitching the days before. I was getting ready. I was feeling good. Cueto did a great job, so I knew I was going in either the eighth or the ninth. I was concentrating and getting ready for that."
By beating the Yankees on Saturday and Sunday, the Reds improved to 6-1-3 in their last 10 series. They are 11-3 in series finales.
"It's hard to come in here and beat the Yankees two out of three," Baker said. "Those guys are exceptionally tough at home."