MILWAUKEE — Joey Votto contorted his body in the batter's box as if he was trying to will his towering fly ball to stay fair as it sailed down the right field line.
It did. Barely.
The ball bounced off the foul pole for a two-run homer, helping the Cincinnati Reds keep pace in the NL Central race with a 7-3 victory Saturday over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Maybe Votto's drive will be the spark that gets some of the Reds' best hitters going down the stretch of a tight pennant chase. The Reds had lost three of their previous four.
"Every game, from my perspective, it's as important in April as it is in September," Votto said. "But, we've got a pretty good idea of what's happening around you. You have an idea of who's behind you and who's ahead of you, how many games you need to make up."
The Pirates won Saturday night to draw even atop the division with the Cardinals, who lost. The Reds are 2 1/2 games behind both teams.
Cincinnati is also trying to fend off Washington in the wild-card race. The Nationals fell 5 1/2 games back after losing to the Phillies.
Homer Bailey (11-10) allowed three runs over seven innings in winning his career-best sixth straight decision. Votto and leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo each finished 2 of 3 with three RBIs and two-run homers.
"We scored enough runs and got a win," Bailey said. "We needed it."
Driving in runs has been a challenge for four of the Reds' big bats in September. Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce and Votto had combined for 13 RBIs in 12 games this month entering Saturday.
Manager Dusty Baker met privately with some hitters before the game. The Reds skipper declined to give details.
Regardless of who was in the meeting, and what was said, the bats broke through.
Fifth-place hitter Ludwick was 2 of 5, while No. 6 Todd Frazier went 2 of 4 with an RBI.
Votto said he waited at the plate during his homer only because he wasn't sure if it would go foul.
Too bad for the Brewers.
"I was hoping that ball had a lot of hook in it," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But it got up there and stayed there."
The homer traveled an estimated 470 feet, tied with a long ball by Rickie Weeks in 2011 for the fourth-longest in the 11-year history of Miller Park.
The Brewers had a shot in the eighth after Jeff Bianchi was walked by Sam LeCure to load the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy.
Baker responded by bringing in All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth. The last time he faced the hard-throwing closer, on Aug. 16 at Miller Park, Lucroy hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give Milwaukee a 7-6 win.
Same ballpark, different result.
This time, Lucroy swung at a 100 mph heater in the dirt. The ball skipped past the plate and bounced off the backstop, though catcher Devin Mesoraco retrieved it in time to throw out Lucroy at first.
"To repeat something like that, really tough," Roenicke said about Lucroy's chances of success again off Chapman. "At a 101 mph, it's tough."
Chapman walked two in the ninth, but struck out the last two batters to finish off his 36th save.
Brewers rookie Johnny Hellweg (1-4), making his fifth career major league start, allowed eight hits and four runs, and hit three batters over five innings.
Carlos Gomez had two hits and an RBI for the Brewers, while Jean Segura stole his NL-leading 43rd base of the season.
They got outmuscled by Choo and Votto at the plate.
Choo reached on a walk with one out in the sixth. One out later, Votto turned on a fastball from reliever Michael Blazek for his 23rd homer and a 6-3 lead. Bailey allowed five hits, with the Brewers causing all their damage in the fourth. Khris Davis, back in the lineup after missing more than a week with a sore left wrist, doubled home Scooter Gennett.
Gomez singled home Davis. The speedy Gomez then stole his 36th base before advancing home on two consecutive sacrifice flies to get Milwaukee to 4-3.
Votto's homer two innings later gave the Reds a three-run cushion again.
NOTES: Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez (left wrist) was unavailable after being hit by a pitch Friday night. He was considered day to day ... Milwaukee is testing different tinting and shading on windows near the roof down the right-field line in an effort to help reduce glare during day games. The team hopes to have its chosen option in place for next season.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP