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STL@CIN: Heisey's single ends it in the ninth

CINCINNATI -- No one on the Reds was equating a mid-April tilt vs. the Cardinals to a possible tense mid-August showdown with the National League Central hanging in the balance.

But once the Reds dropped the first two games of the series, looking anemic at the plate in doing so, Wednesday's finale still took on some added meaning. No way did Cincinnati want to be swept by a hot division rival.

Although they left a baker's dozen of runners on base, the Reds finally found some hits. And when it counted most, they finally got the runs in. It was Chris Heisey's pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth that delivered a 4-3 walk-off victory.

"Getaway days are huge," Heisey said. "To not get swept and salvage at least a game in this series was huge. Yes it's early, but being 2-4 is a lot different than being 3-3. Hopefully, we'll get hot and get the offense going on the road trip, and pick up seven or eight wins."

The 3-3 homestand was earned with two walk-off victories. Scott Rolen hit a pinch-hit RBI single to win Sunday's game against the Marlins. Now the Reds embark on a 10-game road trip to Washington, St. Louis and Chicago.

Before Wednesday, the Reds were hitting .201 as a team over their first five games, and they logged only seven hits over the first two games of this series.

"We're trying to find some momentum and win as many as we can," said Joey Votto, who was 4-for-5, matching a career best for hits in a game. "I think we would have been pretty frustrated going on the road losing this game. The Cardinals played very well this series and are a very good team. They won the World Series last year, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us. They're certainly going to be in the way."

Leading off the bottom of the ninth of a 3-3 game against Cardinals lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski, Votto lifted a double to the left-field corner for hit No. 4, in a game that raised his average from .188 to .333. Ryan Ludwick was intentionally walked before Jay Bruce struck out.

After the right-handed Heisey's name was announced, the Cardinals countered with right-handed reliever Fernando Salas. Heisey drove a 0-1 fastball through the gap in left-center field and stopped at first base after Votto scored the winning run.

"That's a good offense over there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "If you make mistakes, they can make you pay."

Heisey's hit was the team's 14th of the game, but the Reds were still 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position on the day.

"We just left a lot of guys on base, but we kept putting them out there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's the key. Finally, we came through."

Cincinnati notched 11 of its hits over the first 4 2/3 innings off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who took a 3-0 lead against Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the third inning. But the Reds finally got two runs to tie the game in the fifth, with the tying run coming around on Wilson Valdez's two-out push bunt past the mound that scored Votto.

The St. Louis bullpen held the Reds without another hit until the eighth. Still, the Reds' bullpen won the battle of the late innings. It was Aroldis Chapman who emerged with the winning decision after he struck out five over scoreless eighth and ninth innings. Chapman, who won Sunday's game with two scoreless innings of relief, allowed one hit to the Cardinals.

"That was the job -- hold the other team to give my team a chance to come back and win the game," Chapman said. "That's what I had to do today."

The Cardinals, leading the NL Central with a 5-2 start, still have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Reds.

"It sure is nice to come away with one and end the homestand well to stay within reach," Baker said. "You don't want to get too far behind too early. We've got a lot of time, but you'd rather not get too far behind." Comments