Votto hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning, lifting the Cincinnati Reds over the Cleveland Indians 4-2 Monday in the opener of their intrastate matchup.
"I just wanted to put the barrel on the ball and at least get a sacrifice fly," said Votto, who began the day leading the NL in hitting at .353. "It was important to not strike out there or roll over and put the ball on the ground."
Votto won this interleague game with his ninth homer, tagging left-hander Nick Hagadone (0-1). The reliever was called up from Triple-A earlier in the day when closer Chris Perez was put on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder.
Shin-Soo Choo led off the Reds' eighth with a single and moved around on a passed ball and Zack Cozart's sacrifice bunt. With the Indians' infield drawn in, Votto followed with an opposite-field shot into the seats in left, lifting the Reds to their sixth win in their last seven games.
Votto's homer came with NL RBIs leader Brandon Phillips on deck, followed a conference on the mound. Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked if he was surprised first-year Cleveland manager Terry Francona pitched to Votto instead of perhaps walking him to face Phillips, who'd already hit into one double play in the game.
"I never second-guess the other team's manager," Baker said. "You've got to take your shot at some point in the game. Votto won that time."
The conversation dealt with how to approach Votto, Francona said.
"Hagadone has great stuff," he said. "We wanted to pound Votto inside and not let him get his arms extended. It's part of the learning experience, but a pitcher also has to pitch to a comfort zone. If we'd have walked him, it wouldn't have been the end of the world."
Hagadone refused to blame his inexperience.
"It was supposed to be a fastball away," he said. "Even if I'd been up here all year, I'd have been upset."
Choo, traded from the Indians to the Reds in the off-season, also hit a leadoff homer in the first.
Jason Giambi tied it in the Indians' eighth with a long pinch-hit homer. The solo shot was estimated at 467 feet and caromed off the batter's background in centre field. His ninth career pinch-hit homer ended his 0-for-24 slump and was third homer of the season and first since April 20.
Jonathan Broxton (2-1) got two outs in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 13th save, clinching the Indians' fourth consecutive loss and sixth in their last seven games.
Reds starter Mike Leake allowed one earned run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings, striking out seven to match his season high. He left with a no-decision after giving up Giambi's homer.
"Even that pitch wasn't a bad pitch," Leake said. "He did a very good job with it. I thought I did a pretty good job today, as a whole. That's a very good lineup. I was going after them, trying to make them hit my pitch."
Leake had complete-game stuff, Votto said.
"It's a shame Jason hit that ball," Votto said. "If it doesn't, maybe (Leake) finishes the game, but Jason's been around."
Ubaldo Jimenez, 3-0 in five previous career starts against Cincinnati, gave up four hits and two runs in seven innings.
Choo, sent to the Reds with infielder Jason Donald and cash for outfielder Drew Stubbs and infielder Didi Gregorius in December, led with his 10th homer of the season.
The Indians took advantage of an error by Phillips, another former Indians player, to tie it in the fourth.
Jason Kipnis singled and took third when Phillips mishandled Nick Swisher's grounder. Carlos Santana's sacrifice fly made it 1-all.
Cozart led off the sixth with a double that just nicked the outside of the left-field line, advanced on Votto's groundout to second and scored on Phillips' sacrifice fly.
NOTES: The Reds improved to 40-42 in their inter-league series with the Indians. ... The sellout crowd was the fourth straight for the Reds, the second time they'd had four consecutive sellout crowds since moving from Crosley Field in 1970 and the first time since 2004. ... Reds RHP Mat Latos (4-0) will try to stay undefeated in the second game of the brief two-game series on Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Cleveland RHP Zach McAllister (4-3).