CINCINNATI -- Missing three starters, the St. Louis Cardinals tried to sneak out of the Great American Ball Park with a series sweep.
Joey Votto ruined the plan.
Votto tied a career best with four hits and scored the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Chris Heisey’s ninth-inning single, capping a comeback from a three-run deficit and leading the Cincinnati Reds over the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 on Wednesday.
The defending World Series champions won just a single game last season in Cincinnati, but have already taken two this year.
New Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wanted to make it three, even though he had planned to rest hot-hitting David Freese and Carlos Beltran. He was forced to play without Lance Berkman, who strained his left calf Tuesday night.
“We were hoping to steal one today,” Matheny said. “We tried to grind it out.”
Down 3-0 in the third against Jaime Garcia, the Reds tied the score in the fifth.
Garcia was working out of trouble all day and pitched into the fifth but his tight rope act caught up to him.
“I was getting ahead but I wasn’t able to put them away,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to make excuses. They have a good lineup.”
Garcia fouled off several tough pitches from Reds starter Johnny Cueto before he singled with two outs in the third inning. Rafael Furcal, who was rested on Tuesday, returned to the lineup and tripled into the right field corner. Jon Jay hit his first home run of the season to give Garcia a lead to work with.
“It was a great at bat,” Matheny said of Garcia’s battle with Cueto. “Cueto is no walk in the park and we put some good at bats together.”
Votto doubled home a run in the bottom of the third inning. Wilson Valedez, playing for the injured Brandon Phillips tied the game with a two-out bunt single off Garcia in the fifth inning. It was Valdez’s second bunt hit. Both were to the first base side of Garcia.
“The first was the better than the second. I have to make that play,” Garcia said.
His manager agreed.
“The second bunt killed us,” Matheny said. “We shouldn’t have been surprised by the second one.”
Votto doubled off Marc Rzepczynski (0-1) leading off the ninth for his fourth four-hit game. Ryan Ludwick was intentionally walked, Jay Bruce struck out, Fernando Salas relieved and Heisey lined a single to left.
“There was no doubt, right off the bat,” Heisey said. “It was a good feeling to get the barrel of the bat on it.”
Aroldis Chapman (2-0) struck out five in two scoreless innings, helping the Reds avoid a three-game sweep.