CINCINNATI -- Throughout most of the Reds' incredible second-half surge without Joey Votto, Jay Bruce has been their lone core player that hadn't stepped up and delivered many big hits.
Perhaps, that is starting to change. It was Bruce's three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday that snapped a scoreless tie and gave the Reds a 3-0 walk-off win over the Mets. It was their fourth straight victory and it gave them a 20-8 mark minus Votto.
"He's had chances but he just wasn't swinging well," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You sure would like to get him swinging well, and we'll really start clicking. It started the other day in Chicago, and hopefully, this is the start of some big things."
Bruce, who entered the night batting .220 in 24 games without Votto in the lineup, snapped an 0-for-13 skid (which included seven strikeouts) vs. the Cubs on Sunday with a two-run homer. Following Monday's off-day, Bruce now has two homers in two games and a team-leading 23 for the season.
The walk-off win, Cincinnati's eighth of the season, covered the big blemish of the night -- lots of misses in clutch situations. The Reds entered the ninth inning 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and had left 14 men on base, one shy of their season high.
"I think that when you get guys on base, you've just got to keep getting guys on base," Bruce said. "Eventually, something is going to happen. Fortunately, it did in our favor."
An 11-0 loss to the Dodgers by the second-place Pirates put the 70-46 Reds a season-high six games ahead in the National League Central race. They haven't won 70 games this early on the calendar since the 1976 Reds won No. 70 on Aug. 5.
As the scoreless game moved into the bottom of the ninth inning with Mets reliever Manny Acosta taking over, Brandon Phillips drew a leadoff walk and Ryan Ludwick laced a broken-bat single into left field on the first pitch. Left-hander Josh Edgin was summoned to face Bruce.
On a 1-2 count, Bruce drove a 95-mph fastball into the first row of seats in left field to end the game with the fourth walk-off homer of his career.
"We were taking good at-bats, we just couldn't get that hit to bust it open," Bruce said. "Fortunately, a couple guys got on and I was able to end it."
"He hit a homer the other day in Chicago off a left-hander," Baker said. "When he starts hitting balls hard off of left-handers, it means you're staying in there."
Reds starter Mat Latos deserved better than a no-decision with his seven scoreless innings. Latos, who gave up five hits and two walks with four strikeouts, has allowed only one run over his last three starts.
Latos also escaped a couple of jams, including the fourth inning, when he had runners on second and third with one out and the bases loaded with two outs. It took a nice leaping catch by Phillips to rob pitcher Chris Young of a lined RBI hit.
"I couldn't care less about a win right now," Latos said. "As long as this team wins ballgames, it doesn't matter who gets the win. Put an infielder on the mound, as long as we get a 'W,' that's all that really matters to me. I think that's one of the better things about this pitching staff is that we're not really out there trying to see who can rack up the most wins. We're just trying to keep us in the ballgame, and as long as we win, that's all that matters."
In getting the victory, Reds reliever Jose Arredondo dodged breaking the scoreless tie with two outs in the ninth. Arredondo gave up Josh Thole's walk and a long single off the wall by pinch-hitter Scott Hairston. After Hairston stole second base, Ruben Tejada's shallow fly was caught on the run by a lunging Drew Stubbs in center field to save two runs.
"You've got to get your runs early," Thole said. "You've got to keep their bullpen from entering the game. Those are some really good arms out there."
The Reds were unable to get their runs early against Young, who bobbed and weaved out of trouble throughout his 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Cincinnati put the leadoff man on in each of the first three innings and came up empty.
Bruce started the second inning with a double off the right-field wall against Young and never went further. In the third with runners on first and third and one out, Ludwick flied to right field -- too shallow for a sacrifice fly -- and Bruce flied out to left field to end the inning. The bases were left loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings.
"You keep putting them out there, sooner or later somebody is going to score," Baker said. "They put them out there, we put them out there, and we finally came through in the ninth."