Rolen homered twice and doubled with four RBIs in a homecoming that still provided sparks even though he was traded after the 2007 season in the Reds' 9-8 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.
"Good fans, good people," Rolen said. "A little anxiety, a little anticipation. I'll enjoy getting on the plane, too."
Jonny Gomes' RBI single and Drew Stubbs' go-ahead sacrifice fly off Blake Hawksworth put the Reds ahead to stay in the seventh inning after Brendan Ryan's two-run double put the Cardinals ahead 8-7 the inning before.
Joey Votto homered and had four hits, showing no rust from a six-game absence due to a sore neck, and helped the Reds rally after blowing a four-run lead to reclaim first place in the NL Central. The Cardinals won the opener of a three-game series Monday to tie for the lead.
"I wouldn't use the word nerve-wracking, but I think this year we've proven to other people and proven to ourselves that no lead is safe," Votto said. "We have to respect the opposition and play hard all the way through nine innings."
Cueto, who had 37 strikeouts in 34 innings in May, didn't strike out a single batter for the first time in his 72 career starts. He blew leads of 7-3 and 3-0, finally leaving after giving up a walk and three singles to start the sixth. He was charged with eight runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings.
"It was location," manager Dusty Baker said. "He was throwing the ball great. I mean, that's a good hitting club over there."
Arthur Rhodes struck out pinch hitter Nick Stavinoha with the bases loaded to end the seventh and Nick Masset fanned Colby Rasmus with two men on to end the eighth. Baker called the seventh "the inning of decision."
"We knew some tough guys were going to be coming up," the manager said. "He got out of that jam big time."
Enerio Del Rosario (1-0), recalled from Triple-A Louisville earlier in the day, finished the sixth after allowing two inherited runners to score, but earned his first career victory.
Francisco Cordero worked the ninth for his 16th save in 19 chances.
Dennys Reyes (2-1) retired only one of four hitters in the seventh and was charged with two runs. Entering the game he had allowed one run in 16 2/3 innings on the season, an 0.54 ERA.
Rolen hit a three-run homer in the first and he and Votto connected on consecutive pitches in the third off rookie starter P.J. Walters. Rolen has three multihomer games this season after none in 2007-09, a stretch when he was limited by shoulder woes.
The Cardinals traded Rolen, who feuded with manager Tony La Russa, to the Blue Jays after the 2007 season.
"He's an outstanding player when he's healthy," La Russa said. "Probably their manager is getting more out of him than I did. I know people are going to speculate that and it's probably true. I'm sure it's true."
Rolen, who had three 100-RBI seasons in six seasons with St. Louis, downplayed the homecoming angle and his rebound season.
"So far, so good," he said. "But I'm healthy, that's the key. I'll keep going out there and keep swinging it and hopefully good things happen."
Rhodes has allowed one run in 21 2/3 innings this season. He allowed a hit and two walks before extending his scoreless streak to 19 2/3 scoreless innings, tied with Detroit's Jose Valverde for the majors' longest current run.
Walters earned his first career victory in his last outing, working five scoreless innings at San Diego, but faltered in his first career start at Busch Stadium.
"I was pretty much up in the zone all night," Walters said. "Bad night to have a bad night."
Ryan Ludwick has a minor thumb injury from sliding Monday and was not in the Cardinals' lineup. He flied out to end the game as a pinch hitter. ... The Reds led the majors in hits (301), average (.299) and slugging percentage (.507) in May, and led the NL in homers (45), RBIs (160) and on-base percentage (.366) while going 18-11. ... Rolen has 20 RBIs in his last 16 games. ... Cardinals SS Felipe Lopez bruised his right thumb on a fielding error in the fifth and was replaced in the bottom half. ... Matt Holliday had an RBI single and three walks to match his career best.