CINCINNATI -- Even Joey Votto had to stop and watch this one.
Votto led off the bottom of the 10th inning with his 33rd homer, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night that extended their NL Central lead to a daunting seven games and left the crowd chanting "MVP!"Votto hit the fourth pitch from Justin Thomas (0-1) toward the stands in left-center, dropped his bat and watched the first game-ending homer of his career."It was really cool," Votto said.After getting swamped by teammates at home plate, he took a curtain call for ending a back-and-forth game with one swing."Thank God for Joey Votto," manager Dusty Baker said. "That was MVP stuff right there. That's what people come to see. That's what we've come to expect."Before the game, the Reds commemorated the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose's record-setting hit No. 4,192 at Cinergy Field. The 69-year-old Rose got Major League Baseball's permission to go on the field -- otherwise prohibited under his lifetime ban for gambling -- and step on first base while the crowd of 36,101 cheered.Then, the Reds got a little closer to their first playoff appearance since 1995."Wow, wild game," said Chris Heisey, who tied it in the ninth with a double. "Sometimes you can't describe it."Edinson Volquez dominated through seven innings, giving up only one single and fanning a season-high 10 before turning a 3-0 lead over to the Reds bullpen.Neil Walker's two-run single past hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman completed Pittsburgh's rally to a 4-3 lead in the eighth. Joel Hanrahan blew the save chance, giving up Heisey's tying double."We did some very nice things in that eighth inning," manager John Russell said. "It was real exciting. The guys have been doing some good things. The next step is winning."Pittsburgh rarely does that on the road. The Pirates are 14-55 on the road this season, dropping 17 of their last 18.Francisco Cordero (6-4) pitched a perfect 10th for the win.They're already talking playoffs in Cincinnati, and Volquez put himself in the conversation with a dominating performance.Baker has been trying to settle on a rotation with six currently healthy candidates. Right-hander Aaron Harang eliminated himself with two poor outings -- he's been moved to the bullpen.Volquez returned in July after missing nearly a year because of reconstructive right elbow surgery. He was erratic and got sent to the minors on Aug. 31 to fix problems in his delivery. At that point, there was no telling whether he would be an integral part of the Reds' late-September plans.He was sharp with all his pitches against the NL's worst team. Volquez gave up only one hit -- Jose Tabata's single that deflected off the end of shortstop Orlando Cabrera's glove in the first inning."Volquez was really nasty," Walker said.Volquez had control of everything he threw, convincing the Reds that he's back in form and belongs back in the rotation."When he does that, he's about unhittable," Baker said. "Volquez was masterful tonight. That's the best he's pitched since he's been back."Walker's single off Chapman extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest by a Pirates rookie since Rennie Stennett hit in 18 straight in 1971.
Tabata's single was his 100th hit. He and Walker are the first Pirates rookies to have 100 hits in the same season since Jose Guillen and Tony Womack did it in 1997. ... Heisey had a sore arm, leaving the Reds short-handed in the outfield. Miguel Cairo made his third career start in RF, his first since 2005. Heisey got into the game as a defensive replacement and wound up playing a pivotal role in the ninth-inning comeback.