Votto steps up to save Reds, lifts teammates
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By Hal McCoy
Thursday, April 17, 2008
CHICAGO There was no cask dangling around his neck, but Joey Votto was an award-winning St. Bernard rescue dog Thursday afternoon, April 17, in Wrigley Field for the Cincinnati Reds.
Just when his team needed rescuing the most, withering on a five-game losing streak, Votto hoisted his Louisville Slugger and lifted his teammates with it, driving in the first five runs of a 9-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
His three-run double in the fourth turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead and his two-run homer in the sixth made it 5-1.
Point of emphasis was added by Ken Griffey Jr.'s 596th career home run, a three-run rip in the seventh.
Manager Dusty Baker resorted to doggerel about snapping the losing streak: "When losses start mounting, people start counting."
The run-recipient was starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (2-0, 1.17), who wasn't at his economical best but made his stands when he needed to make his stands.
Matters were dire in the second inning when Volquez walked opposing pitcher Ted Lilly with the bases loaded and two outs. He got the next out.
He also encountered a fourth-inning dilemma two on nobody out but worked out of that mess run-free.
It took its toll, though, and he was finished after five innings, having thrown 112 pitches.
"He threw a lot of pitches in a short period of time, but had great stuff," said Baker. "You can work your way out of jams when you have stuff. We still have to get him to cut down on pitches.
"If he cut down today with the stuff he had he could have very easily gone into the seventh inning, thrown 15 to 20 less pitches. But he is learning and he'll learn how to do that."
Volquez, all smiles on this 'V' (Volquez, Votto) for victory day, acknowledged that he feared his time would be short on the mound this day.
"Before I pitched to the last hitters in the fifth inning, I saw I was at 99 pitches and thought, 'Man, I'm not gonna make it.' I just wanted to get out of the inning."
And the problem? "My release point," he said. "That happens with me when I get an extra day of rest, like this time. It seems like I'm pitching with a different rhythm and a different routine. I just try to make an adjustment, but I threw a lot of pitches for five innings.
"The best thing about it? We got a win," he said.
Votto was ecstatic that his offensive explosion made a direct hit on a victory.
"Absolutely, I'm glad I came through in that situation," he said of his bases-clearing double.
"It was left-hander vs. left-hander and a situation where I really wanted to come through. I would have been very disappointed had I not. I'm glad I did that for the team and that was a big situation."
The home run was nice, but Votto added, "The double was 100 percent more important."
Griffey, as usual, was reticent over chatting about creeping up on 600 and when asked if he was thinking about it, he said, "No."
Asked if he would do it at home when the Reds open a seven-game homestand tonight against Milwaukee, he said, "Why is that such a big deal? I hit 100 in Seattle, 200 in Boston, 300 in Cleveland, 400 in Colorado and 500 in St. Louis. So what are the odds that I hit 600 in Cincinnati?"
Baker, though, is pumped. "I'm more excited than he is because he doesn't show much excitement," said Baker. "This guy has done some tremendous things in his career and in his life and I'm pulling for him to get those 600 soon."
And there was that sweet victory to savor on the flight back to Cincinnati.
"It has been a tough five days and we needed this one badly," said Baker. "We didn't want back-to-back sweeps. Six in a row would have been bad and five in a row felt like a month."