Reds erupt in eight-run seventh to claim set vs. Fish
Votto hits second homer in as many games; Choo reaches five times
CINCINNATI -- Even though he was getting on base in more than half of his plate appearances, there has been a constant buzz of worry in some circles that Joey Votto was in a hitting funk.
Votto was drawing walks -- a Major League-most 25 to be exact -- but where were the home runs? Where were the RBIs?
"I'm not concerned about the home runs," Votto said. "The Reds pay me to be good. That's all I try to do -- to be the best that I can. If I go through a little bit of a homer drought, I try to fill in with other things."
After this weekend, some of those rumblings might finally cease. During a 10-6 Reds win over the Marlins on Sunday, Votto homered for the second time in two games while going 3-for-5. He was 4-for-6 in Saturday's win.
If batting .328 with a .516 slugging percentage and .522 on-base percentage is struggling, 99 percent of the league's players would be happy to struggle like Votto.
"I told you everybody is going to worry about Joey more than we were, even Joey," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
In April 2012, Votto batted .289 with two homers and 15 RBIs. In May, he batted .355 with six homers and 14 RBIs.
"If you can hit, you can hit. Sooner or later, you're going to start hitting," Baker said. "You don't just stop hitting. He's not old. He's not fat. And his eyes are still good. Most of the time when you stop hitting, your eyes go bad and you get fat around the midsection, your reaction gets slow and you get old. He's a long ways from any of those. He's going to hit."
Baker, whose club won three of four in the series and six of the last seven during the 10-game homestand, certainly is pleased that Votto's bat has heated up.
"I'm not going to lie, it's nice," the manager added.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning against Marlins starter Alex Sanabia, Votto sent a first-pitch changeup over the plate into the right-field seats for his third homer of the season and seventh RBI. It was the first time he's homered in consecutive games since Sept. 10-11, 2011.
Votto, who missed six weeks last season after needing two surgeries to repair cartilage in his left knee, did not homer again after he returned in September -- which left him at 14 for the season. He hit 29 home runs in 2011 and 37 in 2010.
"So I have a track record of hitting home runs," Votto said. "The year before that, I spent 30-40 days on the DL, so I might have hit 30 that year also. Last year after getting hurt, I didn't hit a lot of home runs. I can understand the concern and the short-term thinking. But I'm healthy. I've told everyone I was healthy. I've told everyone I'm working through it. I don't feel obligated to hit home runs to quell everyone's concern."
In the third inning, Votto lined a one-out single to center field where Justin Ruggiano overran the ball for an error that scored pitcher Homer Bailey to make it 2-0.
Votto's impressive on-base percentage is only the second-best in the Majors, however. On the top of the list is teammate Shin-Soo Choo, who has a .523 OBP after reaching base in 11 of his last 12 plate appearances (four walks, two hit-by-pitches, three singles and two doubles).
Choo reached in all five plate appearances Sunday, including a pair of hit-by-pitches. He scored twice during the seven-run seventh inning that broke the game open after it was tied at 2.
"It's the first time in my career," Choo said of his recent clip of reaching safely. "I don't think about my numbers. Every pitch, I just focus. I don't want to lose any pitches."
"It's something special. That's just insane," third baseman Todd Frazier marveled. "Some people dream just to get that. Even when he gets hit by a pitch, he's on base. It's crazy. It's special. It's pretty cool."
Choo has been hit by a pitch a league-leading nine times, which is more than any other National League team this season. It's broken a 110-year-old club record for most hit-by-pitches in a month.
"You're not going to get on base 95 percent of the time. But he's done very well," Votto said of Choo. "I expect that to be a really big component of his games. I think that's the reason the front office got him -- to have a guy that gets on base consistently at the top of the order. He's definitely doing that."
The big rally in the seventh began with Choo's walk that put him on base for the fourth time of the day. Singles by Xavier Paul and Votto followed to load the bases.
Against Jon Rauch, Brandon Phillips lined a RBI single to right field, with an added run crossing on Giancarlo Stanton's third error of the series. Soon there was an RBI single to left field by Devin Mesoraco, and with two outs and the bases loaded, Todd Frazier blew it open with a three-run double off the top of the right-field wall. Batting for the second time in the inning, Choo laced a double to right field that scored Frazier.
Baker likes seeing Choo and Votto get on base regularly. But there is something else he'd like to see too.
"On-base percentage is good. But RBIs are better," Baker said. "If you can get all of it, that's better yet."