January 30, 2023

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After big night at plate, Votto supports Buffalo, Uvalde communities

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CINCINNATI — What did Joey Votto do after hustling hard for a rare triple on Wednesday vs. the Cubs? He checked his pulse.

Yup, there appears to be plenty of life left in Votto’s game — and plenty of fire, too, which surfaced in the late innings. After the Reds first baseman’s team fell behind in the first inning, Votto delivered a home run and the two-run triple, and his three RBIs were the key in Cincinnati’s 4-3 victory at Great American Ball Park.

“I’m in the lineup. I have to do my job,” Votto said. “We all have a responsibility to produce and play for one another. Today was my turn, among others, of course.”

It has shaped up to be quite a nice — and much needed — first week back to work for Votto.

Since returning Friday from a 15-game stint on the injured list while battling COVID-19, Votto is 6-for-19 (.316) with five extra-base hits, including two homers in six games. Before his time on the IL, he was slashing .122/.278/.135 with one double in his first 22 games.

“First of all, the bat was a real difference-maker,” said Votto, who tried out bats with a “hockey puck” knob earlier this season. “Then a lack of concentration on contact and using the entire field. I was pulling the ball too much. There is more specifics technically, but the essence of it, I just wasn’t making enough contact and I wasn’t using enough of the field.”

Starting pitcher Luis Castillo labored through a 32-pitch top of the first inning and he gave up Ian Happ’s two-run double to put the Reds down, 2-0. Leading off the bottom of the second inning against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, Votto worked a full count before lifting a fastball into the right-center-field seats.

In the third inning with two outs, Tommy Pham tied the game with a lined RBI single to right field. Votto followed by pulling a 2-1 Hendricks sinker down the line to the right-field corner. The 38-year-old chugged around the bases and slid into third base ahead of the throw to be halfway to the cycle. After standing up, Votto put two fingers on his neck to check his pulse.

“He continues to get more and more comfortable at the plate,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We’ve seen him so many times get hot. We started seeing it right when he came back. Definitely a good game at the plate. He’s very confident at the plate and was a big contributor tonight.”

Votto, who struck out in the sixth inning against reliever Daniel Norris, did not get the Reds’ first cycle since 1989, but he did find some controversy late in the game. In the bottom of the eighth with one out and a runner on first base, reliever Rowan Wick’s first pitch to Votto was high and inside.

As Votto took first base on a four-pitch walk, television replays showed Wick yelling something his way. From first base, Votto had heated words for Wick and soon gestured towards the Cubs’ dugout.

“All I said was, ‘Nice bat flip,'” Wick said. “I understand he’s been in the league a long time and he can do whatever he wants when he walks. On my side, I was not happy at all with the pitches that I threw, so I let the emotions get the best of me. I got a little frustrated. But I felt like he kind of blew it out of the water a little more than it needed to be.”

Votto felt like a reply was warranted.

“You know, he had something to say, and I answered. That’s how ball is sometimes,” Votto said. “You’re competitive, and clearly he was competing and locked in on performing well. I’m pulling on the opposite end of the same rope. If someone says something to me, sometimes I don’t answer, but I wasn’t in the mood to keep my mouth shut. It’s part of the game.

“It can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, you know, competing, some talk. I really enjoy that part of the game. Sometimes, it can be overextended and it can be taken too far, but generally speaking, I enjoy that part as long as the other party is fine with taking it.”

The situation went up another notch in the ninth when Reds reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Patrick Wisdom on the shoulder with a 96-mph fastball. Warnings were not issued by the umpire, which fired up Cubs manager David Ross before he was ejected for arguing.

Strickland denied intent with the pitch since it brought the tying run to the plate.

“That’s not ideal, obviously,” Strickland said. “Every win is pretty important to us right now. To go out there and just give guys free bases is not ever the intention by any means.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Rossy. He’s going out there and protecting his team, and standing up for them. Nothing but respect there.”

Strickland walked the next batter and gave up a two-out RBI bloop single before locking down his first save with Cincinnati.

Immediately after the game, Votto wasn’t ready to discuss the incident during an on-field interview for the TV broadcast.

“I haven’t felt in the mood to talk ball today,” Votto said. “I just want to say to Buffalo and to Uvalde [Texas], that’s the communities that were affected by the recent shootings, we mourn with you. You know, it’s unfathomable. You have our love. You have our support.

“We just got done enjoying a ballgame, but you’re not alone. We think about you. … It’s been a wild stretch over the last little bit, we’re so sorry. Our condolences. My condolences.”

Votto then walked away into the Reds’ clubhouse.

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