CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto put on the Viking helmet and cape. He felt right at home.
Votto homered and hit a go-ahead, two-run single in his return to the Reds’ lineup after a 10-month absence that followed surgery, helping Cincinnati extend its longest winning streak in a decade to nine with a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.
“Long time coming,” Votto said. “Ever since I’ve watched them put it on each other, I was thinking about how badly I want that on me because it’s tied to a winning moment, and that’s exactly — exactly — what this team’s about. This is a different energy than I’ve experienced in years, maybe in my entire career, the way these guys think about themselves and how hard they play. I wanted to be a part of this, We are all a part of this.”
Cincinnati took over the NL Central lead for the first time since early April, moving a half-game ahead of Milwaukee. The Reds are on their longest winning streak since taking 10 in a row from July 19-29, 2012.
“The energy of our team has been building,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It doesn’t surprise me. It impresses me.”
Colorado has lost six in a row and 12 of 15.
Returning 10 months to the day after surgery on his left biceps and rotator cuff, Votto was greeted with a standing ovation when he walked to the plate in the second inning. He took off his helmet and waved to the crowd, then tapped it against his heart before lining out to center.
“The crowd reaction was surprising,” Votto said. “Not to underestimate them, but you don’t expect that. I feel the same way toward them. For them to reciprocate means a great deal to me. It was a memorable experience.”
He drove a first-pitch, belt-high fastball from Austin Gomber (4-7) about a dozen rows into the right-field seats for a 3-1 lead in the fifth. After circling the bases on his 343rd home run, Votto emerged from the Reds dugout for a curtain call, wearing the celebratory Viking helmet and cape that have followed Cincinnati long balls this season.
“I played a long time and here I’m wearing a helmet and a cape,” Votto said. “It’s a team thing and it’s keeping me young. It was a daunting rehab and you have your doubts. I don’t want to be the odd person out. Every day there is someone doing something cool to help the team. If you’re not doing something, you don’t fit in. I just want to fit in.”
Votto had not homered since last Aug. 6 against Milwaukee’s Jake McGee.
“He just got himself ready,” Bell said. “He has been doing everything to be a part of our team. It meant a lot to our team. He felt a part of this the whole time but now it feels like it is supposed to. He is going to make us better.”
Votto’s two-run single to center off Jake Bird put the Reds ahead 5-4 in the sixth. The 39-year-old, coming back from surgery to repair his left biceps and rotator cuff, had not played since last Aug. 16. The 2010 NL MVP went 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
“He’s a guy who should be applauded for what he’s done in this city,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He’s spent his entire career here, which is special in this day and age. That ovation was cool. Joey’s been a great player for a decade-plus. It was great to see the fans of Cincinnati recognize that.”
Alex Young (1-0) walked Mike Moustakas with the bases loaded in the sixth, giving Colorado a 4-3 lead, then retired Jurickson Profar on an inning-ending grounder.
Singles by Moustakas and Profar put runners at the corners with no outs in the ninth, but Alexis Díaz got his 19th save, striking out Randal Grichuk and Ryan McMahon, then retiring Elias Díaz on a game-ending groundout.
“We didn’t put the ball in play in the ninth with some veteran players, against a closer with good stuff,” Black said. “Have to shorten up the swing.”
Colorado dropped to 13-27 on the road. The Rockies, last in the NL West, are 16-19 at Coors Field.
Kevin Newman homered leading off the bottom of the first and Nick Senzel hit a solo homer in the second, his first home run since returning Friday from an IL stint caused by right knee irritation.
Elias Diaz hit a solo homer in the fourth off Reds starter Brandon Williamson and added an RBI single during a three-run sixth that included Jorge Alfaro’s run-scoring double.
Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland was scratched from his scheduled start on Tuesday due to illness. … INF Ezequiel Tovar was placed on the paternity list. … INF Connor Kaiser had his contract selected from Triple-A Albuquerque.
Reds: RHP Hunter Greene (right hip pain) was placed on the 15-day IL. …. RHP Kevin Herget was designated for assignment.
RHP Ben Lively (4-4, 4.07) starts against the Rockies for the first time Tuesday night. RHP Noah Davis (0-3, 6.17) is expected to be recalled from Triple-A to start for Colorado, which scratched LHP Kyle Freeland (4-8, 4.48) because Black said he was feeling ill.
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