It took longer than expected, but Joey Votto (center) is back in time for the pennant race. (Al Behrman/AP)

When Votto went under the knife, the Reds were battling the Pittsburgh Pirates for National League Central supremacy, and the teamed hoped to stay afloat without the former NL MVP in the lineup.

But Votto returns to find his team enjoying a comfy 8 1/2 cushion on second-place St. Louis. Without Votto and his league-leading .465 on-base percentage, the Reds are 32-16.

Votto is not in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia, but manager Dusty Baker said he should start Wednesday, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay.

The 28-year-old slugger was fifth in the NL in average (.342) at the time of his injury and he ranked second on the team in home runs (14) and RBIs (49), respectively.

But in his stead, 26-year-old Todd Frazier has picked up the slack, posting a .292 average, 18 home runs and 62 RBIs while filling in at first base.

With Votto back in the fold, are the Reds now the team to beat in the National League?

Cincinnati, which is two losses behind the Washington Nationals for the best record in baseball, kicked of off a nine-game homestand on Monday with a 4-2 loss to the Phillies.

Follow us: @MattBrooksWP | @CindyBoren


Without Votto, Reds hope to remain in NL Central hunt

MLB Standings | Wild card