After Joey Votto's three-homer performance in Wednesday's 9-0 rout of the Cubs, Ken Griffey Jr. asked Votto what he was more upset about, not getting four homers or breaking his bat on his eighth-inning groundout to shortstop.
"Just like a true hitter, he said breaking his bat," said Griffey, who has 597 career home runs, although neither of his two hits Wednesday were homers.
Griffey, it seemed, was the only Red without a home run.
Votto led off the second inning with a 401-foot home run to right field. Adam Dunn followed with a 428-foot home run. Neither center fielder Felix Pie nor right fielder Kosuke ****udome moved on either blast, Votto's missile or Dunn's bomb. Paul Bako and Jerry Hairston Jr. also homered in the inning, marking the first time the Reds have hit four home runs in one inning since 1996.
Those homers also chased right-hander Jon Leiber from the game. Leiber entered the game with a 1.86 ERA and left with a 3.01 ERA.
Reds starter Edinson Volquez, on the other hand, lowered his ERA from 1.27 to 1.06 with seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, six walks and striking out 10.
Amazingly, Volquez was overshadowed by Votto.
After walking and stealing a base in the third inning, Votto homered again in the fifth and sixth innings, both times in the Reds bullpen in center field. Following his third home run, the crowd of 28,418 asked for a curtain call. Injured shortstop Alex Gonzalez answered first, but then Votto got his time.
"Honestly, I was like a kid, I thought it was cool," Votto said. "It wasn't big in the game and the score, but it was cool to be a part of it. Alex took my curtain call, but that was funny."
It was not only funny, but the Reds -- who have been anything but fun lately, were actually having fun.
"We've got some guys here, we've run into a rut and hopefully we can pick it up and have some fun," Griffey said. "For the most part, guys are trying too hard. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it didn't. There's not a lack of effort on this team. It's a lot of fun. Our goal is to put up Ws. We want to see people here with Reds hats."
There will also be more and more Votto 19 jerseys in the stands, as well as Volquez 36 jerseys. The two, along with Johnny Cueto are part of a young group that could build excitement in Cincinnati for some time.
"Volquez and Cueto, and those are two special, special arms," said veteran Scott Hatteberg, the backup to Votto. "They seem to kind of push each other. They have a real similar quality about them. They know they belong here too. They don't just want to belong here, they want to excel. You see that in guys like Jay (Bruce) and Joey. They’re very similar and I think Joey's good for him, he's got a good head on his shoulders."
Bruce is the next great young player on the radar. The 21-year old outfielder entered Wednesday's game with Norfolk with a .299 average, five home runs and 23 RBIs in 31 games. Last season he was named the top prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
Bruce is also good friends with Votto and was excited about Votto’s big day. Votto joked that Bruce would ask him if the wind was blowing out when he heard about his three homers.
"Those probably won't be the last you see from him," Bruce wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. "We were actually talking a few days ago about how we needed to start hitting some more extra base hits and sure enough he went out today and set the bar pretty high. I'm happy for him. That stuff doesn't surprise me, though (by that, I mean his success so far -- three homers are always a little surprising). Joey is a vert talented hitter. Hopefully today's game in general gives those guys a spark. That game shows what they are capable of."
Votto said his teammates just joked with him before his final at-bat, one told him not to be afraid to hit No. 4.
"I'm not going to lie, it was in the back of my head," Votto said of going for a homer in his last at-bat.
He didn't get it, but it was about the only thing that didn't go his way on Wednesday.
"He's an impact player," Hatteberg said. "It comes down to mental makeup. He's got it. He's got a quiet confidence, very mature for a young kid. He doesn’t get rattled. He doesn't get taken back by the big league atmosphere."
While Votto's taken the first base position by the horns, so have Volquez and Cueto.
After Wednesday's game, someone mentioned to Baker that there's a nice young nucleus on his squad.
"Yes there is," Baker said. "And there’s more on the way."