1 of 5 | Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto missed the first 72 games of the season because of a shoulder injury. File Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
June 20 (UPI) -- Veteran first baseman Joey Votto homered and drove in three runs in his return from an injury hiatus, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a victory over the Colorado Rockies and into first place in the National League Central.
Votto, who missed the first 72 games of the season because of a shoulder injury, went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, a run scored and a walk in the 5-4 triumph Monday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
"It was a long, daunting rehab," Votto told reporters. "You have your doubts. When I say you have your doubts, I mean [even] weeks or months ago. ... You have to perform. Obviously I want to perform. I expect to perform."
Votto also said he told close friends that he would homer within the first two at-bats of his return, a prediction that came to fruition.
The Reds (38-35) moved a half-game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers (37-35) for first place in their division with Monday's win. They are on a nine-game winning streak, MLB's longest active surge. The Reds won 12 of their last 14 games.
Reds starting pitcher Brandon Williamson kept the Rockies scoreless through the first three innings. Reds third baseman Kevin Newman hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the first. Right fielder Nick Senzel gave the Reds a 2-0 lead with a 415-foot solo homer in the bottom of the second.
Catcher Elias Diaz hit a 428-foot blast off Williamson for the Rockies first run in the top fo the fourth. Votto them came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the fifth for his second at-bat of the season.
He hit the first pitch he saw from Rockies starter Austin Gomber to right field for a 381-foot homer. The 102-mph blast gave the Reds a 3-1 edge.
The Rockies responded with a three-run sixth to take their first lead of the night. Diaz started the rally with an RBI single off Reds relief pitcher Buck Farmer. Designated hitter Jorge Alfaro tied the score with an RBI double in the next at-bat.
Reds relief pitcher Alex Young then walked pinch hitter Mike Moustakas with the bases loaded, giving the Rockies the go-ahead run.
Reds designated hitter Jonathan India reached base on an error in the second at-bat of the bottom of the sixth. Reds phenom Elly De La Cruz followed with a single. Rockies relief pitcher Jake Bird then walked utility man Spencer Steer to load the bases.
Votto walked to the plate for the next at-bat. He hit a 1-0 Bird sinker to center field, plating India and De La Cruz to give the Reds their final edge.
Reds relief pitchers Fernando Cruz and Lucas Sims combined to allow no hits or runs over the next two innings. Closer Alexis Diaz allowed two hits and no runs in the ninth to earn his 19th save of the season.
Williamson allowed six hits and three runs over five innings, but was not on record for a decision.
Votto was the only Reds player with multiple hits in the win. Steer reached base twice, going 1 for 3 with a walk.
Elias Diaz went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored for the Rockies. Gomber allowed five hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings to drop to 4-7 this season.
The Reds will host the Rockies (29-36) at 7:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Cincinnati.