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Must C Clutch: Votto wins it with a walk-off shot

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto didn't feel particularly good at the plate during Sunday's series finale against the Nationals. But even Votto's worst is better than most.

The slugger persevered with two home runs, including the game-winner leading off the 14th to lift the Reds to a 5-4, 14-inning marathon win over the Nationals and complete the three-game sweep before what remained of 28,415 fans at Great American Ball Park.

Votto hit his 25th and 26th long balls on Sunday, including his second career walk-off blast.

"Sometimes your swing feels a little off," Votto said. "It was an odd game for me. I didn't feel really good at the plate. The first homer just scraped out. The second one was the same way. It's funny how it works out."

Votto's game-winning home run came on a 3-2 pitch from Nationals reliever Collin Balester.

"I knew he had good [opposite-field] power," Balester said. "He reached out and he put it over the fence. The game ended like that."

Jay Bruce added his 28th homer in the fourth.

Sunday's game lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes. Reds pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts, tying the club record achieved five times, the last coming in 2008.

"If you're going to play that long, you might as well win the game," said Reds manager Dusty Baker, who was ejected in the 12th inning.

Votto's heroics were made possible by Yonder Alonso's solo homer leading off the ninth, which tied the score on an 0-1 pitch from Nationals closer Drew Storen.

Neither manager was in the dugout at the conclusion of Sunday's game.

In the 12th, Drew Stubbs was thrown out on a close play attempting to steal second. Baker argued the call and was ejected by second-base umpire Chad Fairchild. It was Baker's first ejection of the season. Bench coach Chris Speier took over at the helm.

"I said the magic word today, a couple of them," Baker said.

In the seventh inning, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was tossed while arguing that Michael Morse was hit by a Johnny Cueto pitch. Bench coach Pat Corrales was later ejected, as well.

Cueto, who racked up a career-high 11 strikeouts, allowed two earned runs and walked just one in a 119-pitch effort. The right-hander was denied his 10th victory when the Nationals rallied to tie the score in the eighth.

"He pitched well," Baker said. "The key is we had a couple of opportunities to blow the game wide open for him."

Cueto pitched without his regular catcher -- Ramon Hernandez. Ryan Hanigan caught Cueto for the first time since July 19, 2010, also against the Nationals. Hernandez was not available on Sunday due to a sore forearm after being struck by a foul ball earlier in the week.

Votto tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the first with a homer that just cleared the fence in front of the visitors bullpen in right field.

After flying out to the warning track in left field in the first, Bruce homered to right-center in the fourth, putting the Reds ahead, 2-1.

Through four innings, Cueto had allowed just one run on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. But he got into a jam in the fifth.

Three consecutive singles, capped by Rick Ankiel's RBI single tied the score at 2.

The Reds loaded the bases on Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann with one out in the fifth when Hanigan and Cueto singled and Brandon Phillips was hit by a pitch on his right hand. Zimmermann walked Fred Lewis to force in the go-ahead run.

Zimmermann allowed three earned runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings in what was expected to be his final start this season.

The Nationals tied the score at 3 on Ryan Zimmerman's pinch-hit RBI single off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth.

With the score knotted in the eighth, Stubbs reached second on a bloop single that eluded Nationals left-fielder Michael Morse. But he was left stranded when Tyler Clippard struck out Hanigan and pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria to end the inning.

Washington took advantage of the missed opportunity when Jayson Werth's RBI hit off Nick Masset in the ninth drove in the go-ahead run.

Reds reliever Jose Arredondo, who tied a career-high with three innings pitched, was one of five relief pitchers utilized by the Reds on Sunday. That leaves the Cincy bullpen taxed heading into a four-game series with first-place Philadelphia beginning Monday. The Phillies arrived in Cincinnati on Saturday to avoid Hurricane Irene.

"You know they're well-rested," said Baker. "I wish my bullpen wasn't completely used."

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