NEW YORK -- So close. Just shy. Only inches from making some history.
Instead of a record-tying eighth consecutive game with a home run Saturday, Joey Votto had to settle for an extremely hard-hit and very long single vs. the Mets in the top of the eighth inning. The first baseman finished 1-for-5 without a homer. As much as that may have stung, what hurt Votto and the Reds much more was blowing a late lead, missing some opportunities and ultimately losing the game, 5-4, in 10 innings at Citi Field.
"It felt like we had it in hand, and coming up short is pretty frustrating," Votto said of the loss. "It feels frustrating, for sure."
Following Kyle Farmer's leadoff single in the eighth against Seth Lugo, Votto attacked an 0-1 pitch and launched it to right field. The drive ricocheted off the orange line at the top of the fence and back into play. According to Statcast, the exit velocity off the bat was 109.4 mph and the ball traveled a projected 377 feet. It would have been a home run in 10 other Major League ballparks, including Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
Votto is the eighth player in AL/NL history to have a seven-game streak with a homer and he would have been only the fourth player to make it eight -- after Dale Long (1956), Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993).
"I was like, 'Good swing.' You know, the seven games started [on July 24] -- I'm a bit of a Statcast nerd -- with an .090 expected batting average home run on a 98 mph weak fly ball that carried into the first couple of rows into Cincinnati," Votto said. “And it ended on a 109, 110 mph line drive off the wall. And that's baseball.
"I had a great time during the stretch because we played so well as a unit. I got to enjoy this stretch because of our winning. That's my way of saying, ‘Thank you,' in a way. This is a pretty selfish little stretch I've been on, not that I've been intentionally selfish, but there's been a lot of attention my way. And that's a little against my nature, but it's been special and I've enjoyed it. Yeah, I'll probably never do it again, but I had a great time doing it for sure."
With runners on the corners and pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson batting against Aaron Loup in the eighth, Votto broke for second base and had no chance when the pickoff throw came. To try and save Votto, Farmer broke for the plate to draw a throw and was tagged out in a rundown.
"Joey thought he had a really good read on the left-handed pitcher there, [he] was slow to the plate. He thought he could get a break there and steal a base," Reds manager David Bell said.
The Reds had won five of the seven games Votto had homered in, including the previous four in a row. They were just one strike away from extending their winning streak.
Cincinnati took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning and had a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Heath Hembree walked leadoff batter Jeff McNeil before striking out his next two batters. Bell summoned lefty reliever Sean Doolittle to face the lefty-hitting Dominic Smith. It was a curious decision, since Smith came into play Saturday hitting .326 vs. lefties and .223 vs. righties.
The move backfired as Smith fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before hitting the game-tying RBI single to center field. Doolittle, who threw five fastballs to Smith, which included a season-high 97.8 mph heater on his fourth pitch, gave up the single on the only offspeed pitch he threw. He has retired the first batter in only 23 of his 41 appearances.
"Obviously, I know Smith’s splits there, but I just thought that was the best opportunity to win the game right there," Bell said. "I wanted to have a fresh arm come in there and attack Smith. It was Doo’s opportunity to do that tonight. It was really as simple as that. It wasn’t as much about the left-right."
In the top of the 10th, the Reds had runners on the corners when Votto got one final at-bat. He struck out against Mets closer Edwin Díaz, before Tyler Naquin lined out to center field to end the threat. Luis Cessa was on for the bottom of the 10th when his first batter, Brandon Drury, hit a single to right field that scored automatic runner Kevin Pillar to end the game.
"That one stings, no doubt. It’s baseball, but it sure does hurt," said Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley, who allowed three earned runs over seven innings.
The second-place Reds (55-50) remained seven games out of first place in the National League Central standings after the first-place Brewers also lost to the Braves. A Padres loss meant Cincinnati also stayed four games back in the NL Wild Card race.
"When you play really good teams, the margin for error is much thinner and you have to play good ball all the way through," Votto said. "I'm not saying we didn't tonight … we just came up short today. Just a frustrating loss today."