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#ASGWorthy Votto paves way with 4-for-4 day

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- On June 8, 2016, Joey Votto was batting .230 but was just starting to come out of the deepest hitting rut of his career en route to a prolific final four months of the season. A year later, Votto is already well on his way to generating his usual high standard of offense.

During the Reds' 5-2 win over the Cardinals on Thursday that completed a four-game series sweep, Votto went 4-for-4 with a two-run home run. He's batting a season-high .300 -- the second time he's reached the plateau in 2017, and first since May 23 -- while posting a 1.018 OPS.

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CINCINNATI -- On June 8, 2016, Joey Votto was batting .230 but was just starting to come out of the deepest hitting rut of his career en route to a prolific final four months of the season. A year later, Votto is already well on his way to generating his usual high standard of offense.

During the Reds' 5-2 win over the Cardinals on Thursday that completed a four-game series sweep, Votto went 4-for-4 with a two-run home run. He's batting a season-high .300 -- the second time he's reached the plateau in 2017, and first since May 23 -- while posting a 1.018 OPS.

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Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Votto and other #ASGWorthy players

"I think every player feels like they want to play good baseball at all times," Votto said. "I was confused last year and the year before. This year, I feel like I've got to stay on it. I've got to try and keep up with my teammates and we can collectively play good baseball."

Last season, Votto was batting .213 on May 31 but finished at .326/.434/.550 with 29 home runs and 97 RBIs while batting .408 in the second half.

Thursday marked the first time this season -- and 22nd time in his career -- that Votto recorded a four-hit game. The 2010 National League MVP is batting .478 in his last six games, has homered in back-to-back contests and has 16 overall. He's second on the club in long balls while his 48 RBIs lead Cincinnati.

"He's something else," Reds starting pitcher Scott Feldman said. "I get a big kick out of just watching his approach at the plate, because when you play with guys a little bit longer, you get to see them every day and it's different than just seeing them once or twice every couple years when I was in the AL. So I appreciate just how good he really is. And when he's hot, I don't know if there's anybody better."

Video: STL@CIN: Votto smacks a go-ahead two-run home run

During the Reds' 6-4 come-from-behind win on Wednesday, Votto clobbered Trevor Rosenthal's first pitch of the night -- a 98.2-mph fastball -- for a two-run homer that capped a five-run seventh inning. According to Statcast™, it was the hardest pitch Votto has homered against this year (by about four mph), and the second hardest for any Reds player.

On Thursday vs. Cardinals pitcher -- and former Reds teammate -- Mike Leake, Votto took what he was given and collected three singles in three at-bats -- all on offspeed pitches. It wasn't until he faced lefty Tyler Lyons in the sixth when he hit a 91-mph first-pitch fastball for his two-run homer to right-center field. It had a 102-mph exit velocity and traveled 403 feet.

"Mike is a tougher guy," Votto said. "He's moving the ball in and out and trying to keep you off balance. He's a challenging guy to barrel up."

From being a teammate from 2010-15, Leake knows the trouble many pitchers have when dealing with Votto.

"He's so into his hitting that he's always going to be making adjustments," Leake said. "You have to be making adjustments with him and try to beat him to the punch."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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