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The good times continue for the Cincinnati Reds. Monday night, the Reds beat the Colorado Rockies (CIN 5, COL 4) to extend their winning streak to nine games, and they also welcomed Joey Votto back to the lineup. Votto made his 2023 debut Monday after having shoulder surgery last August and having to halt his rehab in April temporarily.

The crowd at Great American Ball Park, of course, welcomed Votto back with a loud ovation prior to his first at-bat. And, in his second trip to the plate, Votto blasted a home run to left field, then he took a curtain call with the club's home run viking helmet. Check it out:

One inning after his home run, Votto shot a two-run single back up the middle to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead. The Reds went on to win by the same score. Votto went 2 for 3 with a homer, a walk, and 3 RBI before being removed for a pinch-runner.

Now 39, Votto hit a career-worst .205/.319/.370 in 376 plate appearances last season, albeit while playing part of the year with a shoulder injury. As recently as 2021, he authored a much more Votto-like .266/.375/.563 line with 36 home runs. His healthy return is one reason to believe the Reds have staying power and could contend for the NL Central title.

"I was just called up. I'm here to compete for a job. That's my mentality. That's my attitude," Votto told prior to Monday's game. "Everything in this game is earned. I've been hungry since the day I entered this league. Nothing has changed. Now, sometimes, you can sense you might need to guard your bowl. I'm down for the challenge for sure, but it's always been that way."

As for the Reds, their nine-game winning streak is the longest active winning streak in baseball, and is Cincinnati's seventh winning streak of at least nine games since 1975. Here are the other six:

  • 10 games: July 19-29, 2012
  • 10 games: June 21 to July 1, 1999
  • 10 games: July 2-15, 1998
  • 9 games: May 22-31, 1995
  • 9 games: Sept. 17-25, 1992
  • 9 games: April 9-21, 1990

The nine-game winning streak improved the Reds to 38-35 on the season. Their win combined with the Milwaukee Brewers' loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (ARI 9, MIL 1) puts the Reds a half-game up in the NL Central. This is the latest in a season Cincinnati has been in sole possession of first place since winning the division in 2012.