Votto sinks Blue Jays

Joey Votto began an emotional trip home with the soul-baring revelation of his recent bout with anxiety and depression, and ended it with a big-time performance that reminded all of the force he’s becoming at the plate.

Cincinnati Red Joey Votto had a four-hit-night in his home town of Toronto as the Reds beat the Blue Jays 7-5 on Thursday.

Reds 7 Blue Jays 5

TORONTO — Joey Votto began an emotional trip home with the soul-baring revelation of his recent bout with anxiety and depression, and ended it with a big-time performance that reminded all of the force he’s becoming at the plate.

The hard-hitting first baseman cracked four hits, including a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning, to help the Cincinnati Reds avoid a three-game sweep with a 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Batting cleanup for the first time this season, Votto went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored in his third game since coming off the disabled list, and was happy afterwards with a victory that nearly slipped away and the first steps toward a return to normalcy.

“It was nice feeling good without having to think about the problems I’ve been having,” said Votto, who missed 21 games dealing with anxiety attacks stemming from his father’s death last summer. “I felt like (Wednesday) was a good step and today’s an even better step. …

“Playing well and contributing to the win was really big for me.”

Votto brushed off a 2-for-18 rut in five career games at the Rogers Centre to make that happen. No swing was bigger than his blast in the seventh off Shawn Camp (0-3), turning on the reliever’s first pitch to break a 5-5 tie after the Reds had blown a four-run lead.

The Blue Jays (40-34) had no answer afterwards before a crowd of 15,329 and watched their three-game win streak come to an end. They’re now 6-9 in interleague play with the Philadelphia Phillies coming to town Friday for their final meeting with the NL this season.

A bunt single by Willy Taveras off Brandon League in the eighth squeezed home an insurance run for the Reds (35-36), who stopped a four-game losing skid. Johnny Cueto (7-4) earned the victory despite surrendering five runs in six innings, while Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his 18th save.

“It certainly means a lot to us,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Votto’s return. “He did his thing, he got us on the board, we lost a big lead and then Joey got us the lead again. Boy that was some performance.”

Votto’s ninth homer of the season came after the Blue Jays erased the big deficit left for them by rookie starter Brett Cecil, who was fortunate to have made it through three innings.

Hitless since the first inning, the Jays came alive in the fifth. Lyle Overbay led off with a walk, Russ Adams followed with a one-out single and Aaron Hill worked a two-out walk to load the bases for Vernon Wells, who ripped a two-run double to make it 5-3.

Scott Rolen followed with a two-run single up the middle that tied things up and extended his hit streak to 14 games, matching a career high.

But the Blue Jays stalled at the plate from that point on.

“The guys battled to get back to that point and just couldn’t hang on and score any more runs,” said manager Cito Gaston. “The first part of the game is what really got us.

“Cecil didn’t have his good stuff out there.”

The Reds pounced on Cecil early, tagging him for four runs in the first inning on RBI doubles by Votto and Jonny Gomes, and a two-run double by Jay Bruce.

After Hill homered in the first to make it 4-1, Votto put the Reds up by four again with an RBI single in the second.

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