CINCINNATI - Joey Votto returned from a week in doctors` rooms and homered in his first two at-bats. A pair of young starters took turns melting down.
After nearly four hours of back-and-forth, a very strange game was decided on a routine groundball.
Asdrubal Cabrera drove in the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning Saturday night, overshadowing Votto`s remarkable return from a week of medical tests, and rallying the Cleveland Indians to a 7-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
"Yeah, that happens in this game," Cabrera said, referring to the irony of how it ended.
Cabrera`s run-scoring groundout - his third RBI of the game - completed a rally that started against David Weathers (0-1).
Cabrera, who has been Cleveland`s leadoff hitter for the past week in place of the slumping Grady Sizemore, also had a two-run single.
Luis Vizcaino (1-1) got the win, and Kerry Wood pitched the ninth for his seventh save in nine chances. For the second day in a row, Cleveland`s bullpen was called into the game early. This time, it came through without allowing a run in seven innings.
"I think it`s starting to come together," manager Eric Wedge said of his bullpen, which has been a work in progress. "We`ve got to make sure the starters and the bullpen work together. That`s what has to happen next."
Cleveland snapped its five-game losing streak at Great American Ball Park and evened the weekend intrastate series at one game apiece.
Mark DeRosa homered and drove in four runs for the Indians, who overcame Votto`s impressive return to the lineup. An inner-ear infection left Votto dizzy during a West Coast trip and led to three days of medical tests to reach the diagnosis. After a week of waiting, Votto needed only two at-bats to make the Indians feel a little dazed.
Votto hit a full-count pitch into the stands in left-center field in the first inning off rookie David Huff, rounded the bases and was congratulated by disbelieving teammates. Catcher Ramon Hernandez had a wide-eyed look as he bumped fists with Votto in the dugout.
Votto`s night would get better.
On his first swing in his next at-bat, Votto hit a three-run shot deep into the seats in right field. Huff did a double-take, looking back at the stands to see how far up it landed. The 35,821 fans demanded a curtain call from Votto for the third multihomer game of his career.
"That`s him," manager Dusty Baker said. "He`s got that short stroke. That was a great comeback game for Joey."
Hernandez also had a two-run homer off Huff, a 24-year-old pitcher who has been pounded in his first two big league starts. He gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of a 7-5 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"It`s disappointing," Huff said. "I love to win, and I need to win. For me, it`s one of those things that`s very frustrating."
Right-hander Homer Bailey couldn`t hold a pair of leads in his first - and probably final - start as a fill-in for the injured Edinson Volquez. The 23-year-old pitcher remained winless over his last two seasons in the majors.
Bailey left after walking the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, clinging to a 6-4 lead. Jared Burton gave up a single by DeRosa that tied it. Bailey walked a career-high six batters - four of them scored - and gave up six runs, matching his career high.
"It doesn`t do you much good if you can`t locate (pitches)," Bailey said. "I even tried backing off a little bit, but that didn`t work. There were a few calls that could`ve gone either way, but as inconsistent as I was, I couldn`t use that as an excuse."
The Indians lead the intrastate series 31-28.
(bullet) The Indians are 109-104 overall in interleague play, which started in 1997. The Reds are 78-96.
(bullet) Reds Gold Glove 2B Brandon Phillips left the game after jamming his right thumb while fielding a grounder in the eighth. The Reds were forced to shuffle their infield, and wound up playing Hernandez at third base for the first time in his career. He caught a popup.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
TIME: 1:10 p.m.
WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
PITCHERS: Lee (2-5, 2.90 ERA) vs. Cueto (4-2, 2.35)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM