LOS ANGELES (AP) -Joey Votto doesn't want to talk about it. Neither does Reds manager Dusty Baker. Eventually, they're going to have to acknowledge the fact that Cincinnati's last-minute All-Star has more than a decent chance of winning baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967.
Votto hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning and added a two-run single in the ninth for the NL Central leaders in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. The Reds took two of three in the series and maintained their 3 1/2-game division edge over St. Louis with Bronson Arroyo's 100th career victory.
Votto, who leads the NL with a .323 batting average, has 29 homers and 86 RBIs - three behind Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in both categories. The last Triple Crown winner was Boston's Carl Yastrzemski.
``We watch the Cardinals, so I can't help but not miss seeing what Albert's doing. But in general, I'm not checking my statistics,' Votto said. ``I just make sure I'm in line with what I think I can do and do the best I can.'
Baker was confident coming out of spring training that his slugging first baseman would have these kind of numbers, after hitting .322 last season with 25 homers and 84 RBIs.
``The guy's hit everywhere he's gone (in the minor leagues), so you don't stop hitting,' Baker said. ``The thing is, he thinks and knows he can hit, and that's the battle right there. He doesn't like making outs.'
Asked about Votto's Triple Crown chances, Baker said: ``It would be a wonderful thing. But I just want him to keep playing and let the chips fall where they're going to fall. If it happens, it happens. You can't do anything about what other people do.'
Votto snapped a 2-all tie when he drove Clayton Kershaw's 1-1 pitch into the left field pavilion for his first home run in 38 at_bats since his two-run shot against Mitch Atkins of the Cubs on Aug. 8.
In the ninth, the Reds loaded the bases against Jonathan Broxton, who fanned pinch-hitter Scott Rolen for the second out of the inning. But Votto lined a 3-2 pitch to left field at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat that began with him in an 0-2 hole.
``Broxton's the type of guy that goes after hitters, so I had to be on guard the whole time,' Votto said. ``He's got very good stuff and he strikes out guys, so I had to choke up a little bit after I swung and missed on the second strike. I desperately wanted to put the ball in play in that situation because those are important runs and we needed that breathing room.'
Baker gave kudos to Votto for outlasting one of the hardest throwers in the game in only his second career at-bat against him.
``That was sheer desire and determination. That's what it's about right there,' Baker said. ``He had to keep fighting and battling and he fouled off some tough pitches. That's what good hitters do. Broxton threw everything in the book at him. That was a huge at-bat. It gave us big-time breathing room.'
Arroyo (14-7) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking none. The right-hander came in 0-3 with a 5.56 ERA lifetime at Dodger Stadium.
``It was a tough game,' Arroyo said after his 103-pitch effort in 93-degree heat. ``There were some innings where I definitely could have gotten knocked out. The fifth and sixth took a lot out of me. So I told them after the sixth that I still had some left, but to watch me close in the seventh.'
The win put Arroyo one shy of the career-high win total he established in 2008 and equaled last season. At one point, he fanned the heart of the Dodgers lineup - Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Casey Blake - in succession after giving up a leadoff infield single to Ryan Theriot in the sixth.
``He's got a good record and a good ERA, but he's not really a max-effort guy. That's not the way he pitches,' Blake said. ``I mean, he uses his fastball effectively, but it's not an all-out deal. He can throw harder if he wanted to, but that's not his gig. He just throws hard enough to make his off-speed stuff effective and he changes speeds. If he was more of a max-effort guy, he probably wouldn't have lasted maybe as long as he did.'
Kemp homered for Los Angeles' first run and A.J. Ellis added an RBI single in the fifth. But the Reds' bullpen closed the door and Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 34th save in 40 attempts.
Kershaw (11-8) struck out 11, allowing three runs and five hits over seven innings. He threw a career-high 118 pitches.
Brandon Phillips opened the game with a single against Kershaw, who has failed to pitch a 1-2-3 first inning in any of his 26 starts. The 22-year-old lefty walked Votto and Jonny Gomes with one out, then gave up a two-run single to Ryan Hanigan with two out.
The Dodgers, coming off their first four-homer game since opening day, struck back in the second when Kemp hit his 21st.
NOTES: Vin Scully's decision to return for an unprecedented 62nd season in the Dodgers' broadcast booth thrilled one of his close pals, fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman of the Reds. ``I think `poet laureate of baseball' would probably be as close to being accurate - relative to Vin Scully - as anything. And probably, that doesn't even do him justice,' Brennaman said. ``I can say unabashedly that he's been my idol. I'm envious of him because he has total recall about something that might have happened at Ebbets Field in 1952. I don't remember what happened yesterday.' ... When Dodgers manager Joe Torre was asked if Scully's return was part of a package deal with him for next year, the former Angels TV analyst said: `I'm not going to the booth. He likes to work alone.'
The Associated Press News Service
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