CINCINNATI -- After striking out swinging in the first inning Monday, Reds first baseman Joey Votto pulled his jersey over his mouth to muffle his displeasure. It didn't work. But Votto turned his tirade into cheers in the eighth inning when he hit a tie-breaking, two-run home run, lifting Cincinnati to a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians before a sold-out crowd at Great American Ball Park.
"I'm not sure there's a correlation between being angry and having success later," Votto said. "I was very, very not happy. I really wanted to put a barrel on it (in the eighth) and keep it off the ground. At the very least, get a sacrifice fly."
Votto's homer was one of three in the game.
Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with a solo homer against his former team.
Indians pinch-hitter Jason Giambi hit a solo homer in the eighth off Reds starter Mike Leake to briefly tie the score. But Votto's homer on a fastball away by left-hander Nick Hagadone, who was promoted from Class AAA Columbus prior to the game, put Cincinnati ahead to stay.
The Indians, coming off Sunday's loss in which they blew a three-run lead in the ninth to lose 6-5 at Boston, endured another bullpen letdown.
"We wanted to pound Votto inside and not let him get his arms extended," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "It's part of the learning experience, but a pitcher also has to pitch to a comfort zone. If we'd have walked him, it wouldn't have been the end of the world."
Up until Giambi's homer, Leake was dominant. He allowed just two runs, one earned, on five hits in a season-high 7 1/3 innings. Leake did not walk a batter and matched a season-high with seven strikeouts.
"They have threats everywhere in that lineup," Leake said of the Indians. "I just tried to go after them and make good pitches. Even (Giambi's homer) wasn't a bad pitch."
Jonathan Broxton (2-1) earned the victory. Hagadone (0-1) took the loss.
Choo, facing the Indians for the first time since they traded him to Cincinnati in December, hit his 10th home run leading off the first inning.
Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs, who was traded to Cleveland in exchange for Choo, went 1-for-3 with a strikeout in his first regular-season appearance against the Reds.
Choo's home run came on a 2-1 pitch from Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez, putting Cincinnati ahead 1-0. Choo went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
"That's good to see, because he's been struggling some," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "There's a little extra adrenaline when you play against your former team."
Cleveland tied the score 1-1 in the fourth on Carlos Santana's sacrifice fly.
It was an unearned run charged to Leake, which ended his 16 2/3-innning scoreless streak. Brandon Phillips, another former Indian, committed an error on Nick Swisher's ground ball which would've been the second out.
Cincinnati got that run back in the sixth.
Zack Cozart doubled and later scored on Phillips' sacrifice fly, putting the Reds ahead 2-1. Cozart went 2-for-2 with a double.
Michael Bourn prevented the Reds from increasing their lead in the seventh when he made a sensational over-the-shoulder running catch of Xavier Paul's line drive in deep center, which likely would've scored Todd Frazier from first.
Leake, meanwhile, cruised through seven innings with just a run and four hits allowed over 91 pitches. He appeared to be in line for a victory before Giambi launched his 1-1 pitch 467 feet off the facade of the batter's eye pavilion in center, tying the score 2-2.
Jimenez exited after seven innings with 108 pitches. He allowed two runs on four hits, walked four and struck out six.
But the struggles for the Indians' bullpen continued.
In the eighth, Hagadone allowed a leadoff single to Choo. With one out and Choo on third, the Indians chose to pitch to Votto, who launched a 2-1 pitch into the left-center field seats, putting Cincinnati ahead 4-2.
Things got testy in the ninth with Reds closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound.
Chapman threw two high fastballs over Swisher's head. Swisher glared at Chapman following the second one, but then lined out hard to center. Chapman fanned Santana to clinch his 13th save.
"Is that the first time you've seen Aroldis throw one to the screen?" asked Baker. "Everybody overacted, except the umpire."
Swisher didn't believe it was an overreaction. The Reds and Indians have one more game remaining at Great American Ball Park, before playing two in Cleveland this week.
"To throw the second one at my head, that's not good," Swisher said. "The guys on the bench jumped up and showed they had my back. That's what kind of team we have."
NOTES: Indians right-handed closer Chris Perez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness. Perez is on the DL for the first time in his five-year career. ... Choo hit his third leadoff home run this season and eighth of his career. ... Giambi's game-tying home run was his ninth career pinch-hit homer. ... The Indians and Reds are playing rare back-to-back, home-and-home, two-game interleague series this week. Following Tuesday's series finale in Cincinnati, the teams will play Wednesday and Thursday at Progressive Field.