CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto's two-out, run-scoring single in the 10th inning completed the Cincinnati Reds' rally to a 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night that tightened the NL Central.
With 32,972 fans waving white rally towels and chanting "MVP," the National League MVP came through against Jason Motte (1-1), driving home Chris Heisey from second base.
The Reds overcame a 5-2 deficit in the late innings. Brandon Phillips' single off Eduardo Sanchez tied it in the ninth, and Votto kept the Reds perfect in four extra-inning games this season.
Francisco Cordero (3-1) pitched out of a two-on threat in the ninth, striking out Jon Jay to keep it tied.
The defending NL Central champions moved within a half-game of the first-place Cardinals.
The Reds won the NL Central last season despite going 6-12 against St. Louis, the only team in the division that could handle them. They evened their series this season at two games each with a dramatic comeback.
Cincinnati has won seven of its last nine games overall, now that its rotation is complete with Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto back off the disabled list.
St. Louis has won two of its four games while bench coach Joe Pettini fills in for manager Tony La Russa, who is recovering from shingles. After Kyle Lohse turned a 5-2 lead over to the bullpen in the seventh, Pettini got a workout making pitching changes to try to hold on.
Nothing worked for long.
Edgar Renteria doubled home a pair of runs in the seventh off Miguel Batista, who failed to retire any of the three batters he faced.
The fans waved those white rally towels handed out at the gates when rookie Sanchez came on to try to preserve the one-run lead in the ninth. Sanchez walked Renteria on four pitches and threw a wild pitch. Phillips' single tied it.
It was the first time in five tries that Sanchez failed to hold a lead in the ninth.
Ramon Hernandez started the winning rally in the 10th with a double. He was caught in a lengthy rundown on Chris Heisey's grounder, although the outfielder managed to reach second on the play. He scored easily on Votto's single to right field.
Matt Holliday had three hits for the Cardinals, helping them pull ahead 5-2 and raising his batting average to .398, best in the majors.
The Reds scored both their runs off Lohse in the sixth, when Jay Bruce had an RBI single and scored on Scott Rolen's double. Rolen was activated from the disabled list before the game, having recovered from a sore left shoulder and neck, and had three hits.
The NL's most prolific offense scored three times in the fourth inning off Bronson Arroyo, who gave up six hits and three walks in six innings. Holliday doubled home a run, Lance Berkman had a sacrifice fly and Daniel Descalso doubled for another. Descalso also singled home a run in the sixth off Arroyo. Holliday's RBI single in the seventh made it 5-2.
NOTES: Tyler Greene made his sixth start at SS. Ryan Theriot missed his second game with a sore right side, but Pettini expects him back in the lineup on Saturday. ... The Reds optioned infielder Chris Valaika to Triple-A Louisville to open a roster spot for Rolen. ... Cueto starts for the Reds on Saturday, the first time he's faced the Cardinals since the teams got into a brawl last Aug. 10. Cueto got a seven-game suspension for kicking two Cardinals during the fight.