CINCINNATI – Not even the return of All-Star first baseman Joey Votto was enough to help the Cincinnati Reds win a series from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Votto went 2-for-3 with a walk in his first game since July 15, but Erik Kratz hit a three-run home run, Chase Utley added a two-run shot, and Roy Halladay pitched the Phillies to a 6-2 win on Wednesday.
Votto lined the third pitch he saw in 52 days to left field for a single with two outs in the first inning. He walked in the fourth and singled to left-center in the sixth before striking out looking against left-hander Antonio Bastardo in the eighth.
"I think it went better than I expected," Votto said. "I was happy to be back in the lineup playing. Unfortunately, it came with a loss."
Reds manager Dusty Baker thought about taking Votto out in the seventh, but changed his mind when Votto said he was OK.
"Joey's fine," Baker said. "I think those (medical) rehab days (in the minor leagues) really helped. I asked him in the seventh inning how he was doing, and he said he was fine."
"He looked pretty good to me. He even slid. We didn't anticipate him sliding on that double-play ball, but he's a ballplayer."
Votto hurt his knee sliding into third base in San Francisco on June 29. He went into another slid Wednesday in the fourth inning.
"The knee held up well until Bastardo buckled it," Votto joked. "I was a little apprehensive and did some things gingerly. I have to get over that hurdle, and I will at some point."
Votto said he was humbled by the ovation he received when he went out just before the game to loosen up, and by the standing ovation given to him by half of the crowd when he stepped to the plate in the first inning.
"I'm appreciative of the support," said Votto, who admitted on Tuesday to being apprehensive about his reception. "It exceeded my expectations."
Halladay, 4-1 in his last six starts, is 110-0 when he is staked to a lead of at least four runs. Halladay (9-7) scattered eight hits over 7 1-3 innings, allowing one run with five strikeouts and one walk. Philadelphia won two of three in the series against the NL Central leaders and went 4-3 overall this season. The Phillies have won nine straight season series against the Reds.
The Reds went 32-16 while Votto was out due to two operations related to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Votto finished 2-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout for Cincinnati, which lost a series for just the third time in 16 matchups since the All-Star break (11-3-2).
Jay Bruce homered for the fourth consecutive game, but it wasn't enough to rally the Reds in the ninth inning.
For the second time in less than three weeks, Reds starter Mike Leake was roughed up by the Phillies. After giving up a career-high seven runs in 4 1-3 innings in Cincinnati's 12-5 loss at Philadelphia on Aug. 20, Leake (7-9) was touched for six more in just 2 1-3 innings on Wednesday. He gave up six hits with a walk and a strikeout.
"They have a good plan, and they make it work," Leake said of Philadelphia's hitters. "They have a bunch of veteran hitters that I haven't been able to figure out yet."
The Phillies opened the second inning with consecutive singles by Ryan Howard, John Mayberry Jr., and Domonic Brown before Kratz hit a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats for a three-run homer, his ninth shot of the season.
Leake was knocked out of the game in the third inning after he issued a leadoff walk to Juan Pierre and gave up Utley's 10th homer of the season, a 414-foot drive to center field on the first pitch.
Baker pulled Leake from the game after Howard flew out to the warning track in left field, and Mayberry lined a double off the top of the left field wall.
Bruce drove in both Reds runs. He doubled with two outs in the fourth to drive in Chris Heisey, and led off the ninth against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon with an opposite-field shot for his 32nd homer of the season.
Notes: Brown snapped a 0-for-19 slump with his second-inning RBI single. ... Reds SS Zack Cozart missed his second consecutive start because of a sore back, Baker said. Didi Gregorius made his major league debut by starting in Cozart's place. ... The Reds will open a three-game home series against Houston on Friday.