3rd milestone's a charm: 2,000 hits for Votto

August 17th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- In the midst of a renaissance season, is having more fun than he's had in years, playing with a team in the postseason hunt while checking off individual milestones.

The latest one came on Monday. During his three-hit game in the Reds’ 14-5 victory over the Cubs at Great American Ball Park, Votto passed 2,000 career hits and became the fifth member of the franchise to reach that plateau.

"Despite what it may seem, I didn't try to get the 2,000th hit at home here. I was trying to get hits in Philadelphia and I just came up short," Votto said. "But I'm glad that it worked out this way. My teammates have been very supportive, and I feel lucky because of that. The fans have been very supportive of that also. I have felt the love from them, truly."

Votto hit a third-inning single up the middle against Cubs starter Justin Steele. In the seventh inning with his team ahead, 4-0, fans at Great American Ball Park chanted "Joey! Joey!" as the 37-year-old first baseman ran up a full count against reliever Michael Rucker.

Rucker threw a curveball and Votto lined it to center field for a single and hit No. 2,000 as the crowd roared. After reaching first base, he responded by applauding back to the fans and raising his helmet in appreciation.

"I was really happy with the 2,000th hit, because before the at-bat, I wanted to make sure my uniform looked good, my socks looked good. I made sure that way, if there’s a highlight, I at least look my best," Votto said. "It was a really good at-bat. I was very happy, because the pitcher was throwing very tough pitches that at-bat.”

Votto has reached three major milestones this season. On April 30 -- also vs. the Cubs -- he reached 300 home runs. (He now has 321.) On June 30 vs. the Padres, Votto notched RBI No. 1,000. He debuted in the big leagues in 2007 -- with Cubs manager David Ross as one of his teammates.

"I think Joey's career has been pretty special here for Cincinnati fans," Ross said. "Seeing him early on, definitely, you knew he was going be a really good Major Leaguer. I think sustaining that success is the hard part, and he's been a guy that's been a staple here for a long, long time. I'm happy for him and his family."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Votto is the second AL/NL player to record his 2,000th hit, 300th home run and 1,000th RBI in the same season. Cubs great Billy Williams also did it in 1971.

That significance was not lost on Votto.

"I appreciate some of the attention and the accolades, but I typically shy away from it," Votto said. "It’s not typically my style, but it’s cool that I did it all in one year, especially doing that same thing as a Hall of Fame player.”

The Reds collected all of Votto's gear -- the ball, the bat, uniform and more -- to commemorate the milestone. When Votto notched his first career hit -- a home run off the Mets' John Maine on Sept. 5, 2007, also at GABP -- it was also during a three-hit performance.

Three years later, Votto gave that ball to his dog, Maris, who died in 2020 at the age of 10.

"My very first Major League hit [ball] doesn't exist anymore, it was chewed up and spit out by him," Votto explained. "He loved it, by the way. If I'm honest with you, if he were still alive, I'd probably give him the 2,000th ball to chew up. I don't know, actually, I take that back. I don't know that that would be good for his gut. I probably wouldn't do that."

The Reds were in control of the game by the eighth inning, so Votto could enjoy the moment.

With two outs in the fourth inning, Jonathan India hit a 2-2 pitch from Steele for a two-run homer into the left-field upper deck to break up a scoreless tie. In the fifth against Rucker, Aristides Aquino crushed a two-out, two-run homer to left field. According to Statcast, the exit velocity was 113.5 mph and the homer traveled 442 feet.

Following Votto's second hit, the game spun into a rout during an eight-run seventh inning. India delivered the biggest blow with a bases-loaded double that gave the rookie a career-high five RBIs. Batting for the second time in the same frame, Votto added career hit No. 2,001 with an RBI single lofted into left field. He was lifted for pinch-runner Tyler Stephenson, but waved to the crowd one more time before entering the dugout.

"I think a lot of us are in awe a little bit of how many hits, just the great accomplishments," Reds manager David Bell said. "I think more than anything, just being able to be there with Joey, the way he’s enjoying it himself, the way he’s embracing, he’s appreciating a lot where he is. For us as teammates of his, just to be able to -- it was an honor to be there tonight and to experience it."

For the seventh time this season, Wade Miley was the beneficiary of his lineup's double-digit run output. Miley worked seven scoreless innings with four hits, one walk and seven strikeouts.

Votto has enjoyed a big season, and he has entered National League MVP discussions as both he and the Reds have surged. In his past 26 games, he has batted .367 with 15 homers and 36 RBIs. That included a franchise-record seven straight games with a home run.

"It almost sounds ridiculous -- but I almost feel like I’ve re-learned to hit. I’ve really, really enjoyed the fruits of that discovery," said Votto, who made changes to his approach midway through last season.

Meanwhile, the Reds (65-55) have climbed to 1 1/2 games behind the Padres for the final NL Wild Card spot.

"I think I counted six straight years of not strong baseball by us from ’14-19," Votto said. "To play well and play together and more than anything, be done with a game, to get a win and also feel momentum towards something that we’re all collectively doing, and then to be a part of that with these individual milestones, is really pretty special."