CINCINNATI -- Crucial game situations are nothing new to Scott Rolen.
The 17-year veteran has seen his fair share of tight contests and close calls, and Sunday night was no different as he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
With the score tied at 2, Rolen sent a liner just inches above a leaping Skip Schumaker at second to drive in two runs and secure 4-2 victory against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park en route to the Reds' sixth straight win.
"Right there you get an opportunity that just presents itself," said Rolen, who was 2-for-4 on the night. "You don't think about it and you try not to make it a bigger at-bat than it is. What's going through your head is try to get a good pitch and putting a good swing on it."
That's exactly what Rolen did as the Reds completed the sweep of the Cardinals and claimed sole possession of first place in the National League Central over the Pirates, who lost, 4-1, to the Brewers earlier.
After watching Saturday night's drama unfold, the sellout crowd in Cincinnati knew more fireworks were in store.
Joey Votto drew a walk off Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook with one out in the eighth.
After throwing a wild pitch and hitting Brandon Phillips in the back, Westbrook was pulled for southpaw reliever Marc Rzepczynski to face left-handed-hitting Jay Bruce.
Luck fell the Reds' way as Bruce knocked a grounder off Rzepczynski's foot, allowing both runners to advance into scoring position, despite Bruce being thrown out at first.
"They were playing [Bruce] right behind second base," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "If it doesn't hit his foot, that's a double play. We had a little luck today."
Mitchell Boggs replaced Rzepczynski and intentionally walked Ryan Ludwick to load the bases for Rolen, who became Cincinnati's hero.
The win came after a stellar outing from Reds starter Homer Bailey, who filled in two days earlier than expected after Johnny Cueto developed a blister on the index finger of this throwing hand.
"As good as Johnny pitches, Johnny couldn't have pitched much better than Homer pitched tonight," Baker said. "It might have helped him. Sometimes things happen adversely and you don't understand why and you don't know why."
Bailey threw eight innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on nine hits, quieting a Cardinals lineup that entered Sunday's showdown leading the NL in batting average, hits, runs and RBIs.
"With those guys, their whole lineup, they're such good hitters," said Bailey, who earned his eighth win. "They can really put the ball in play. Going into the game we knew you really couldn't go for a whole lot of strikeouts because they put the ball in play so well."
Bailey only struck out two batters, but managed to keep the Cardinals at bay for most off the evening and impressively fended off a late St. Louis threat in the eighth.
The 26-year-old righty allowed two leadoff singles to Matt Holliday, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games, and Carlos Beltran to start the eighth.
With the score still knotted at 2, Bailey retired the next three batters in order, including catcher Yadier Molina, who was 3-for-3 with a double and a home run entering the at-bat.
"Homer really came through in the eighth," Baker said. "That's what aces do. That's the time where you've got to really step up and be a man, and he did. There are some real tough hitters up there."
The Cardinals left eight runners on base in the finale after leaving 11 on both Friday and Saturday.
The Cardinals, who average nearly five runs per game, scored just seven runs throughout the three-game series.
"We didn't hit when we needed to," said Molina, who was 6-for-12 with four RBIs in the series. "The whole series went like that. We have to keep battling and try to figure out what it is and try to fix it."
With the win, the Reds are a season-high 12 games above .500 and are at the front end of a 10-game homestand.
"I love 12," Baker said with a smile across his face. "I can love 13 even better."
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.