“We’re at the must-win stage now,” Votto told reporters in Cincinnati. “Seventeen games remaining and several good teams in front of us.”
The Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-1 to avoid a three-game sweep at Great American Ball Park. They completed a 10-game homestand Sunday with a 5-5 record.
“To round out a series after a couple of losses is a big deal,” Votto said. “Hunter (Greene) threw really well today, and there were a lot of star performances on the offensive side. It was a nice clean game all around. We had a happy clubouse.”
Entering an off day Monday, the Reds (74-71) were 1½ games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (75-69) in the race of the third and final wild card. The San Francisco Giants (73-70) were tied with the Reds. The Miami Marlins (74-69) were a half game back of the Diamondbacks.
Votto and Jonathan India hit home runs Sunday after returning from the injured list. India made his first appearance since July 28. Votto had not played since Aug. 23. That leaves Matt McLain, who has not played since Aug. 27, as the only everyday position player still sidelined.
“I have to come back and perform well,” Votto said. “We all do. We’re deep. Everyone wants to be on the field. Everyone wants to compete. Hopefully, that will be our strength going through the end of the season and into some postseason ball.”
The Reds start a six-game road trip Tuesday. They play three games against the Detroit Tigers (66-77) and then three against the New York Mets (65-77).
Arizona stayed ahead of the other wild card contenders by taking three of four games from the Chicago Cubs (77-67), who are in position to get the second wild card, over the weekend. The Diamondbacks start a four-game series on the road against the Mets on Monday.
Miami took two of three games from two of the National League’s top teams for the second straight series. lt went 4-2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers (87-55) and Philadelphia Phillies (78-64). The Marlins start a four-game series on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers (79-63), the top team in the Central Division, on Monday.
The Giants completed a three-game sweep of the the NL’s worst team, the Colorado Rockies (51-91), on Sunday. That followed a six-game losing streak. They continue a six-game homestand Monday with the start of a three-game series against the Cleveland Guardians (68-76).
If the season had ended Monday, the Diamondbacks would play at the Brewers, and the Cubs would play at the Phillies in best-of-three wild card series with the Dodgers and Braves getting byes.
The Reds are 5-5 in September after finishing 10-17 in August.
“We definitely have got to start pushing,” India said. “It hasn’t been a great month for the Reds — the past two months, I guess. But we need to start get going now. We need to give it all we’ve got. We’ve got to play with heart. We’ve got to play with passion. I’m going to give it all I’ve got and bring energy.”
Reds at Tigers, 6:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410