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Associated Press
Cincinnati’s Joey Votto rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run off Los Angeles reliever J.P. Howell in the fifth inning Friday night.

Slumping Votto keys Reds’ win

– Joey Votto emerged from his deep slump when the Reds really needed him.

Votto singled and hit a two-run homer Friday night to lead Cincinnati to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers that kept its momentum going in the NL Central race.

The 2010 NL MVP has been having a tough time, watching his batting average fall to .300 after he led the league at .361 on May 24. The Reds got a run in the fourth when Votto ended his 0-for-13 streak with a single off Stephen Fife, Jay Bruce singled and Ryan Ludwick grounded into a double play.

Votto hit a two-run homer – his 22nd – off J.P. Howell (2-1) in the fifth inning for a 3-2 lead.

“This is one game,” Votto said. “You’re only as good as your last at-bat.”

His last at-bat Friday? The decisive homer.

“Joey coming through was a big thing for us,” said Mike Leake, who went 7 2/3 innings. “When you’re in a slump, it’s tough – not that his was a big one. I’m glad for him.”

Manager Dusty Baker asked Votto if he wanted a day off Friday to regroup. Votto decided to play and broke out.

“It started with the base hit up the middle,” Baker said. “You guys know the stats. I knew he was 0-for-something. He came through at the right time. You can’t hold a good man down for long.”

While the Reds were relieved, the Dodgers got another concern for their pitching staff. The NL West leaders lost Chris Capuano to a mild groin strain in the second inning, when he grimaced on a pitch to Zack Cozart. Already this week, the Dodgers had to push Hyun-Jin Ryu back from a scheduled start because of a sore back.

“It is something I’ve had before, but I’ve been able to keep it at bay,” Capuano said. “I just felt it grab on a pitch to Cozart. I didn’t hear it pop or anything. I hope it’s a mild strain. I have to wait to see how it feels tomorrow. I’ve felt great the last couple of games.”

Leake (12-6) emerged from his recent slump, helping the Reds get their fourth win in five games. He allowed five hits, including Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homer.

Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the fourth day in a row, fanned three in the ninth for his 35th save in 40 chances. It was only the eighth time in his career that the hard-throwing lefty went four days in a row.

“We know down the stretch we’re going to play a lot of close games,” Baker said. “We know down the stretch our closer is going to have to go multiple games.”

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was in the lineup a day after he left a game because of a sore left thigh. He singled in the eighth off Paco Rodriguez.

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