DENVER -- The force field around the Reds' recent winning mojo withstood a venerable Coors Field slugfest and a subpar night from the rotation's ace.
It's not often that a team has a five-homer night with a four-run inning and feels fortunate to escape with a victory. But that's what happened for the Reds in a 9-7 win over the Rockies on Saturday night.
"That was a tough, tough, tough game," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They didn't quit over there and our guys kept battling. You never feel comfortable in this ballpark."
The first-place Reds, who have a two-game lead in the National League Central and are tied with the Yankees and Nationals for the best record in baseball at 60-40, have extended their season-high winning streak to nine games and have taken 16 out of 18. Amazingly, much of the success has come without the help of their best player. They are 10-2 minus the injured Joey Votto.
"I feel like the team chemistry in here is awesome," said left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who hit two homers in the game. "Everyone gets along. I think we believe. Obviously having Votto out of the lineup as long as he's been out and to have the record we have, you've got to believe. We're getting contributions from different players at different times. If you believe in yourselves, it's half the battle."
There has been some variety to this winning stretch -- pitching duels, routs and on Friday, a 3-0 shutout at Colorado.
This time, Cincinnati had to roll up its sleeves and grind one out -- especially after starter Johnny Cueto's first four batters of the game notched hits and the Rockies took a 3-0 first-inning lead.
Setting a career high with his 13th win, Cueto gave up five runs (four earned) and 10 hits over six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. He lost his league lead in ERA as it increased to 2.39.
"It was not an easy night but thank God I did my job. At least I did it," Cueto said through an interpreter.
The Reds used power to get back in game. Ludwick and Todd Frazier each hit solo homers in the top of the second inning.
"Johnny battled big time. He didn't start the game out too well," Baker said. "It wasn't looking too good. We came back and got two right after they got three."
In the third, Drew Stubbs made it a 3-3 game with a long ball to left field. Colorado took the lead back in the bottom half as Cueto gave up two hits and made a his second errant pickoff, which led to an unearned run when Josh Rutledge scored as Michael Cuddyer grounded into a double play.
Instead of homers, the Reds put together a rally against left-hander Christian Friedrich in the fifth. With runners on second and third and one out, Zack Cozart rolled a single up the middle that scored Todd Frazier. Drew Stubbs' single into left field brought home Ryan Hanigan with the go-ahead run.
Reliever Josh Roenicke replaced Friedrich and Brandon Phillips promptly drove a two-run double to the wall in center field.
"Those solo home runs don't kill you, but that [fifth] inning did," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Roenicke later allowed Scott Rolen's solo homer to left field to begin the sixth inning.
In a lengthy bottom of the sixth, Cueto gave up a two-out single and a walk that loaded the bases, but he wiggled out of trouble.
"What an offense. We picked Cueto up tonight," Ludwick said. "He can't throw zeros up every time, even though he is pretty good. Really good. If he's not the Cy Young talk now, there is something wrong. Cy Cueto."
The Rockies crept closer against Reds reliever Jose Arredondo in the seventh. Following a walk, Cuddyer hit a 1-1 pitch that landed in the left-field seats just beyond Ludwick's outstretched glove. Bill Bray walked his only batter when he replaced Arredondo, and Logan Ondrusek worked out of the inning. Ondrusek gave up a double to start the eighth and a one-out walk. Sean Marshall entered with two outs and got a big strikeout of Carlos Gonzalez.
Ludwick gave Cincinnati some insurance in the eighth by leading off with his second homer of the game, against Matt Belisle. His 17-homer total is second on the team and it was the first time the Reds had five homers in a game on the road since Sept. 10 last season, also at Colorado.
Even closer Aroldis Chapman had some drama in the ninth en route to save No. 21. Chapman grazed Todd Helton with a 99-mph fastball, gave up Jordan Pacheco's two-out single and a wild pitch, but he struck out Andrew Brown to leave the tying run on second base as the Rockies finished with 10 runners left on base.
On Sunday, the Reds will be seeking their third-straight three-game series sweep. They haven't won 10 games in a row since 1999.
"You don't think about how you're doing it, don't think about how long you've been in it, don't think about when it's going to stop," Baker said. "Just come out and expect to win every day."