After umpire check, Elly lets his bat do the talking

De La Cruz crushes 455-foot homer, two doubles in win over Nationals

July 6th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- In a capital city always salivating for its political scandals, the Nationals thought Reds rookie might be involved in a baseball one. But alas, "Knobgate" wasn't to be.

A couple of at-bats after controversy about a swing tracker on the knob of his bat was cleared up, De La Cruz didn't need a newfangled device to tell him that he completely clobbered a home run -- one of his three hits -- during Wednesday night’s 9-2 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park.

“Every time this guy hits a ball that hard, for everybody it’s just a jaw-dropping moment," said Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft, who allowed one run in six innings. "That guy just has so much power, it’s ridiculous.”

First-place Cincinnati has won four straight games, seven of its past eight and 19 of 23 to push its record to 48-39. Wednesday also marked the club's seventh consecutive road series win.

Before De La Cruz’s first plate appearance during the second inning on Wednesday, Nationals manager Dave Martinez requested that the umpires perform an equipment rules check on his bat regarding the housing of a swing tracker that was covering the knob.

"It wasn't a big issue. I just wanted to know what that was," Martinez said.

The swing tracker is an electronic telemetry device the team uses in Spring Training and batting practices. De La Cruz, who has used it since 2021, likes the feel of its plastic cover -- sans electronics -- for regular-season games.

"From there on out, I’ve asked for more of those plastic shells," De La Cruz said through translator Jorge Merlos. "Sure enough, I just felt more comfortable at the plate, but it doesn’t give any advantage to me or anything like that.”

"It’s a knob on his bat that we as an organization got approved by Major League Baseball," Reds manager David Bell said. "The umpires did not have record of that."

There was a lengthy delay before the issue could be sorted out.

"It’s something we hadn’t dealt with before," crew chief Adrian Johnson said. "So we used the tool we have -- the rules check -- to contact replay, which is in the league office, asking about the attachment."

Johnson made De La Cruz ditch the knob cover until MLB told the Nationals that it was approved. The rookie struck out during that first at-bat.

"Not ideal. But it was one at-bat that Elly had to take without being as comfortable," Bell said.

De La Cruz had the plastic shell back on when he flied out his second time up. Leading off the fifth inning, De La Cruz launched Josiah Gray's 2-2 pitch for a no-doubt homer to the second deck in right field to make it a 5-1 game.

“It was a great swing," said Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who hit his fifth homer of the season in the second inning. "I had the best seat in the house. I oftentimes do to watch Elly show off his skills. He’s got plenty of them, and they’re getting better each and every day.”

After watching the ball depart, the 21-year-old De La Cruz looked to the Reds dugout and repeatedly tapped the bat knob and pointed before circling the bases.

“It’s just to tell everybody the knob is not the reason why I’m doing a good job," De La Cruz said. "It’s because of all the work I’m putting out there.”

According to Statcast, De La Cruz's fourth homer of the season left his bat at 111.6 mph and traveled a projected 455 feet. He now has two 455-plus foot homers this season, tied for fourth-most by a rookie since Statcast started in 2015. He giggled when informed of the distance.

“I knew that I hit it hard, but I didn’t realize it went that far, to be honest," he said.

Batting right-handed in the eighth inning, De La Cruz slashed a double to right field and stole third before scoring. Back to lefty in the ninth, he hit a hard grounder through the right side and hustled for a double. The big game was on the heels of his 4-for-4 effort with a sac fly on Tuesday.

De La Cruz is batting .318/.356/.536 with a 132 wRC+, 11 steals, 14 RBIs and 25 runs in 26 games.

Martinez hoped the Reds and De La Cruz understood his position.

"I love the way he plays the game. I didn't like his antics after he hit the home run," Martinez said. "We could do without that. He's only got [a couple] weeks in the big leagues. But he's going to be a good player."