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HOU@CIN: Bruce blasts go-ahead homer to right-center

CINCINNATI -- There is no denying the roll Jay Bruce is on right now. But to prevent this nice streak from being temporary like many in his past, Bruce has made a concerted effort since the offseason to make sure it has a chance to last.

Bruce hit a home run for a career-best fourth straight game on Sunday and it was the biggest one of the bunch because it came in the bottom of the eighth inning and gave the Reds a 6-5 come-from-behind victory and series win over the Astros.

"It's always good when you can come through for your team like that," Bruce said after his team took two of three in the series. "Obviously, I wasn't the only part of that comeback."

No he certainly wasn't, as Joey Votto loomed large with a four-RBI day while ending a 19-game, 68-at-bat drought without a home run.

"The guys that are supposed to come through are coming through," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Cincinnati was down, 5-3, when it rallied against Houston reliever Wilton Lopez. It started with back-to-back singles by Ryan Hanigan and pinch-hitter Chris Heisey. David Carpenter was pitching with two outs when Votto pulled a double past diving first baseman Matt Downs before it rolled down the right-field line to score Heisey and Drew Stubbs.

"He actually threw a good pitch and I should have made an out. I found a spot," Votto said. "It wasn't a very good swing and I picked the wrong pitch. I got lucky in a way."

Astros manager Brad Mills chose not to use a lefty to face the dangerous Votto, nor did he have Carpenter pitch around him.

"There was a way we wanted to go about pitching him and we felt Carp was the best guy for the pitching plan we had worked out," Mills said. "He was able to stick his bat out and get it down the line."

Leading off the eighth inning against Fernando Rodriguez, Bruce lifted a first pitch into the right field seats for what would be the game-winner.

With hits in nine of his last 10 games, Bruce is batting .421 (16-for-38) in a stretch that came on the heels of a career-worst 0-for-19 funk. His seven homers overall are second in the National League.

"It's a long season and we're a month down, but I am continuing to work," Bruce said. "I will try not to focus on the numbers as much as the preparation and work that I do on a daily basis to be able to go out and perform and help my team."

Last season, Bruce was the NL Player of the Month in May when he slugged 12 homers and 33 RBIs while batting .342. He followed up June with a prolonged slump.

"He feels a little more confident with all of the hard work he's put in and he's really worked well this year," Votto said of Bruce. "It's something he should be very proud of. I hope this confidence stays with him because he has the potential to be one of the stars of the game."

It was Votto who also helped the Reds with an earlier comeback when his team was in a 2-0 deficit in the fourth inning. After Zack Cozart notched Cincinnati's first hit of the game off Jordan Lyles, Votto slugged a 438-foot two-run home run to right-center field to tie the game.

Reds starter Mat Latos, who allowed five runs and tied a career high with 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings, left trailing, 5-3, but was taken off of the hook by his lineup.

Latos was particularly hurt by a pair of Houston home runs. Right after Votto tied the score in the fourth, Jed Lowrie took a 3-2 pitch deep to right field for a two-run homer. Cincinnati scored once more in the fifth, but in the sixth with one out, Matt Downs took a 1-2 Latos pitch to right field for a solo homer.

"It was great to watch the hitters, especially, do the things that they did," Latos said. "They picked me up on a day I was feeling a little under the weather. It was not a good outing."

Logan Ondrusek pitched a perfect eighth inning to claim the victory. Sean Marshall, who blew his last save opportunity on Thursday, returned in the ninth inning on Sunday and collected his fifth save.

The Reds have won seven of their last 10 games to finish April with a .500 record at 11-11. Like Bruce, they hope the team's momentum is sustained.

"The way we started was really ugly," Votto said. "I think it was a shock to everybody in the clubhouse. It was kind of humbling. It was a good thing. I'm a firm believer that you don't want to start off slow, but there is nothing wrong with starting off slow. It keeps you in check and makes you work a little harder, and concentrate on the fundamentals of the game. Those are what will carry you throughout the middle of summer and the end of the year." Comments