NEW YORK – Joey Votto’s remarkable home run tour reached the biggest city of them all.
The first baseman hit a homer in his seventh consecutive game to help power the Reds to a 6-2 victory over the Mets on Friday at Citi Field.
The record of eight consecutive games with a home run is shared by Ken Griffey Jr. (1993), Don Mattingly (1987) and Dale Long (1956). Votto will have a challenge on his hands on Saturday, however. New York is starting veteran lefty Rich Hill. Votto is 1-for-10 lifetime vs. Hill.
“It’s amazing. He is a Hall of Famer in my eyes,” said Reds second baseman Jonathan India, who hit two home runs in the game and was still overshadowed by Votto. “What he’s doing right now is special. It’s special to watch because it’s later in his career and he’s doing this? It’s turning into an MVP season. It’s beautiful for me to watch, first-hand.”
India gave the Reds a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer in the first inning and Jesse Winker gave them a 2-1 lead with a two-out RBI single that scored India in the fifth.
Votto, 37, was leading off in the sixth inning against freshly summoned Mets reliever Drew Smith when he lifted a 2-0 fastball to center field for his 21st homer of the season and a 3-1 Cincinnati lead. According to Statcast, the ball left Votto’s bat at 102.2 mph and traveled a projected 423 feet.
“There’s some special hitters out there, and this is one of them. What he’s doing right now is incredible,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I thought we pitched him carefully today. It happened that Drew fell into that 2-0 count, and he had nowhere to go with no outs, and Joey took advantage. We know how hot he is.”
Cincinnati has won four games in a row and six of its last eight. The Reds have scored five or more runs in all eight games.
Votto not only extended his club record for consecutive games with a homer, it was also his ninth homer in the past seven games.
“I’ve never been in a place like this before. It’s exciting,” Votto said of his current homer-hitting zone. “It’s so much more fun doing it on a winning team and doing it in connection with wins.”
Beginning July 24 in Cincinnati and continuing through Chicago and now New York, Votto is only the eighth player in AL/NL history with a homer streak of at least seven games and the first since Kendrys Morales in 2018 for the Blue Jays.
Mets fans didn’t fully appreciate Votto’s road show. As he returned to the dugout to celebrate the latest homer with his team, he pointed to his name on the back of his No. 19 jersey. It’s part of an inside joke he has with manager David Bell and a reference to a character on the acclaimed television comedy “Ted Lasso.”
Votto was booed when he returned to bat in the eighth inning and drew a walk.
“Watching him play now, the way he moves, the way his athleticism -- his athleticism in the field and in the box, it's probably as good as I've seen him move over the last few years,” Bell said. “He's always taken incredible care of himself. Everything is very free. He's very free and he's allowing his ability, his athleticism to take over in all areas of the game.”
Midway through his 2020 season after he endured a rough start, Votto made a change to his approach and swing. He became less selective and looked to hit for more power.
But Votto still couldn’t fully explain why he’s connecting like he has lately. He referenced a July 1 game vs. the Padres at Great American Ball Park -- where he went 0-for-5 -- as a potential catalyst.
“I swung the bat probably better in that game than I did during any of these home run games,” Votto said. “I’m only in so much control of this, so as far as being superstitious or doing the same thing, you know, I don’t do any of that.”
Votto equaled Barry Bonds (2004) in being the only players age 37 or older to hit homers in seven straight games. Bonds was 39 years old when he achieved the feat.
“It’s cool. He was a fantastic player late in his career,” Votto said. “I’m nowhere near the player he was late in his career, of course. But this has been a really good stretch. I don’t have a track record of being a home run hitter like he is. This is probably more -- I don’t want to say luck -- but certainly some randomness is involved. It’s been a really cool stretch for sure. I’ve said this numerous times, I think I still have talent and I feel great on a consistent basis. There’s no reason why I can’t perform well.”
Votto has 11 homers in 25 games in July after he hit 11 over 54 games during the abbreviated 2020 season.
Reds pitcher Sonny Gray survived a rocky bottom of the first -- where his first four batters reached and the Mets scored a run. But Gray escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam after that and it was the only earned run he allowed over six innings, with five hits, one walk and seven strikeouts.
India sealed the win with his two-run homer in the ninth for his first two-homer game. The rookie credited Votto for helping him.
“I’m so honored to be playing with someone like that,” India said. “The way he carries himself, I really admire. He pushes me to be better. Not many guys are like that later in their career. He still has fun. He has so much fun with his game. It’s amazing to watch.”