CINCINNATI -- When you do something for the Reds franchise that only two Hall of Fame players have done previously, teammates and fans will notice and offer appreciation.
That’s why 16,090 fans were on their feet demanding a curtain call when Joey Votto became the third player in Reds history to reach the 300-home run milestone on Friday. Not only that, the long ball by the venerable first baseman put the Reds ahead for good in an 8-6 win over the Cubs at Great American Ball Park.
“That they asked for it is always an honor,” Votto said. “They’re very infrequent. I don’t remember the last time I had a curtain call.”
With one out in the bottom of the third inning as Cincinnati trailed by a 2-0 score against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, Nick Castellanos hustled out a ground ball to prevent an inning-ending double play as Wade Miley scored. That extended the inning for Votto.
“A little thing that turned into a really big thing,” Reds manager David Bell said.
Votto, who hit a first-inning double, launched Arrieta’s first-pitch slider off the facing of the Budweiser deck in right field for the two-run homer that gave Cincinnati the lead. Statcast projected the ball traveled 429 feet with a 113 mph exit velocity.
It was the fifth home run of the season for Votto and his first since April 22. A few teammates greeted him at home plate, including Jesse Winker and a very-thrilled Eugenio Suárez.
“I think Geno was at home plate, no helmet, no batting gloves,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “Joey's done so many unbelievable things in this game and there's still obviously more to come, but he'll never talk about it. I think that's one of the things that makes him as special as he is, because he's one of the more humble people I've been around.”
In fact, Votto expressed surprise that he received such attention.
“I just try not to be presumptuous,” he said. “I come to work every day and fit in, and be respectful of my teammates. And the way they just took care of me, and then took care of me on the field, has been shocking in the best of ways. And it really made my day. This is one of the most memorable moments of my career, by far.”
As teammates offered the hugs and high-fives, fans roared with approval and gave Votto a standing ovation until he emerged from the home dugout and obliged with the curtain call.
“All of us want to have those big moments,” Votto said. “You know, I’ll daydream about curtain call moments at home when I’m thinking about hitting a ball or whatever, and it’s always just you doing well, and then more importantly, you’re doing well for the team and moving toward a win. Today, I think it was that nice combination of certainly a nice moment in my career, and a relationship that I’ve had with the Reds fans, but we went ahead. That’s what everyone is here for.”
Votto, 37, ranks third all-time in homers for the franchise. Johnny Bench leads with 389 homers, followed by Frank Robinson with 324.
“I have a great deal of respect for both players, the late Frank Robinson and obviously Johnny,” Votto said. “I want to keep going. I want to keep playing well. That’s really what’s on my mind. That’s the first thing I thought about after hitting the home run.”
When Votto hit his first Major League home run on Sept. 5, 2007, one of his teammates was David Ross -- now the Cubs’ manager.
“It means I’m old,” Votto joked. “It’s pretty cool to be able to say that the opposing manager was there for the first one. It’s just a reflection of playing for a bit and I want to keep playing.”
Opening the Reds’ fourth inning against Arrieta, Suárez attacked a 1-1 pitch for a homer to center field that snapped a 0-for-26 skid. Two batters later, Nick Senzel lifted a two-run homer to left field. Later, with two outs in the inning, Votto lofted a soft RBI double inside the right-field line to make it a 7-2 game.
By the later innings, some developments could have changed the vibe of the evening. Winker exited the game with a tight back in the seventh inning, but it is not considered serious.
The bullpen endured some drama in the ninth and almost gave away the game. There were four walks allowed -- including three by Lucas Sims -- that plated two Cubs runs. Tejay Antone took over and threw three pitches to David Bote for the groundout that ended the game. It was Antone’s first career save.
With a victory in hand, a relaxed Votto did his postgame Zoom session with reporters wearing a No. 2 Smyrna (Tennessee) High School football jersey that belonged to teammate Sonny Gray. A couple of weeks ago, Votto wore a football jersey of Kyle Farmer’s.
“I think my favorite part of it … was watching Joey enjoy the moment,” Bell said. “As players you don’t always do that. I was really happy to see it meant a lot to him. The reaction of his teammates and, of course, the fans. He definitely savored the moment.”