The Reds entered Saturday trailing the division-leading Cardinals by 3 1/2 games and the second-place Pirates by a game. Both teams play later Saturday.
Homer Bailey (11-10) allowed three runs over seven innings in winning his career-best sixth straight decision. Votto had three RBIs, including the towering drive off the right field foul pole in the sixth.
The Brewers loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth trailing by four, but All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman struck out pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy.
Chapman tossed a scoreless ninth to finish off his 36th save.
The Reds jumped on starter Johnny Hellweg (1-4) with four runs over the first two innings.
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