Votto records a career first in back-to-back ABs

April 19th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Reds enjoyed a night of firsts Thursday at Petco Park.

First baseman connected for his first career leadoff home run, hit his first home run from the No. 9 spot of the lineup and earned his first win with the Reds as Cincinnati beat San Diego 4-1 to snap a four-game losing streak**.**

“After a while, you get really frustrated and embarrassed when you don’t play well,” Votto said. “Especially when you come into a season talking a big game and you don’t perform well. I don’t like the idea of overpromising and underdelivering.”

Votto delivered a 394-foot blast to right-center field on an 0-2 fastball from Chris Paddack. With that, he managed to establish a career first in consecutive plate appearances. Against Pedro Baez in the eighth inning Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, Votto popped out to first base for the first time in 6,829 career plate appearances.

In plate appearance No. 6,830, Votto got his first-ever look at Paddack, the Padres’ No. 5 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Paddack bypassed Triple-A to crack the Padres’ Opening Day roster in part because he pitches with savvy beyond his 23 years. That includes using his changeup more than 32 percent of the time, but Votto saw three straight fastballs to open the game.

Votto fouled back the first one, 93 mph on the inside black. Then he missed a 94-mph offering down the middle at the top of the strike zone. The next pitch came in just a bit lower at the same velocity, and Votto drilled it 103.4 mph beyond the fence for a 1-0 Cincinnati lead.

"That's just a veteran telling a rookie, ‘Hey, welcome to The Show,’” Paddack said. “I'll obviously learn from that mistake tonight."

Truth told, Votto was more in deep conversation with himself. He entered the game with a .228 batting average and one home run. Stepping in against Paddack, he was focused on matching his mindset to his fundamentals. The homer was an affirmation.

“I feel much better,” Votto said. “I think I’m going to continue to head in that direction. I feel good.”

The leadoff homer came in Votto’s fourth start as the leadoff batter, so he hasn’t had many opportunities to start a game that way. This was his third straight game batting leadoff after only one previous start atop the lineup. For comparison’s sake, he has started 1,262 games in the No. 3 hole.

The home run was the 271st of Votto’s career, moving him ahead of Adam Dunn for sole possession of fourth place on the Cincinnati franchise charts. Next up is Tony Perez, with 287. Johnny Bench holds the club record with 389, and Frank Robinson is in second with 324.

It had an immediate significance, too. It gave the Reds their first lead in 2 1/2 games, since the fifth inning of their previous series opener Monday against the Dodgers. In this series opener, however, Roark had a lead to protect before he threw a pitch.

“It lets you go out there and pitch with more confidence,” said Roark, who was acquired from the Nationals in a December trade. “It allows you to relax.”

Relaxed or just on his game, Roark limited the Padres to one run on four hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings to break into the win column in his fourth Reds start. He threw at least nine of each of his pitches -- four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup and slider.

“He was on all night,” said Barnhart. “He was able to get both breaking balls over, and they had to honor that. He had fastball command, and they had to honor that. He was able to throw right-on-right changeups. He was nasty tonight.”

Barnhart gave Roark a bit more breathing room with a two-run shot off a first-pitch fastball from Paddack in the fifth inning. That made it 3-0 and gave Barnhart his first homer from the nine hole in 61 such plate appearances.

Thursday marked Barnhart’s eighth start at the bottom of the lineup, but his first in a National League game. Reds manager David Bell dropped him behind Roark in the batting order in the hope that Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker might have RBI opportunities behind Barnhart.

Instead, Barnhart collected his first two RBIs of the season.