Votto after historic blast: 'I’m trying to homer'

Slugger sets new club record by homering in sixth straight game

July 30th, 2021

CHICAGO -- lined out in the third inning of the Reds’ 7-4 win over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon, on a ball that still left his bat at 95.3 mph and fell into center fielder Rafael Ortega’s glove just in front of the warning track.

Forgive Chicago starter Alec Mills -- and the rest of the pitchers around the big leagues -- if there was a sigh of relief because that ball stayed in the park.

In the first inning, Votto started Cincinnati’s scoring by launching a two-run shot off Mills a Statcast-projected 431 feet into the Wrigley Field bleachers, a dinger that helped him set more than a few records. Among them:

• It stretched Votto's streak of games with a home run to six, extending his career-long stretch and setting the Reds’ franchise record.
• It was his eighth hit in a row to leave the ballpark, which tied the second-longest streak in at least the Expansion Era (per the Elias Sports Bureau).
• It gave him eight home runs in his last six games. At 37 years, 322 days old, Votto is the oldest player since at least 1901 to accomplish that feat. Votto is also the first player with a homer streak of six games or more since Paul Goldschmidt did it in July 2019.

The record for most consecutive games with a homer is eight, which has been accomplished three times: Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners, 1993), Don Mattingly (Yankees, 1987) and Dale Long (Pirates, 1956).

“It was 2017 when he finished second in the MVP [voting], and that whole thing was crazy,” Tucker Barnhart said. “But this stretch that he's on now, I've not seen it like this, where he's basically calling his shot. It's amazing to me just to watch him continue to get better.”

“‘Unbelievable’ would have been a much more fitting thing to say. It really is,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Other than the fact that Joe certainly believes in it, and I do too. Pretty incredible what he’s doing. Congratulations to Joe.”

As he was reminded postgame, Votto once said something along the lines of, “I’m not up there trying to hit home runs, unless I’m trying to hit a home run.” So what’s changed for Votto between then and now?

“Oh, I’m trying to homer. I’m trying to homer,” he said. “That’s the difference.”

Another part of it could be Cincinnati’s elder statesman trying to set an example for his younger teammates.

Before the season (or at least that’s when he remembers it happening), Kyle Farmer was approached by Votto, who said, “You've never seen me really good, have you?” Farmer, who’s been with the Reds since 2019, told Votto that he remembered him being really good in the past. However, Votto knew he hadn’t yet shown Farmer the player he had been before. That’s when he laid out his goal for 2021.

“He was like, ‘Well, I'm gonna be really good this year. I want to win MVP,’” Farmer said. “And I was like, ‘All right, let’s do it.’”

Votto’s surge is the biggest story for Cincinnati as it looks to stack as many wins as possible in hopes of clawing its way into the playoffs. After a frustrating loss Monday, the Reds (54-49) head to New York on a three-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, Votto has some work to do to get into the National League MVP race, but the explosion he had in Chicago still reminded onlookers of just how good he can be.

“This past series, I was like, ‘Holy crap,’” Farmer said. “I looked at Tucker -- because Tucker was on the team when he was doing really hot -- and I was like, ‘Is this what it was like?’

“He was like, ‘This is exactly what it was like.’”

“It's been a pleasure to watch,” Barnhart said. “Joey is one of my favorite teammates I've ever had, and I've been lucky to play with him. It's just something that I don't want to take for granted, but I know I'll look back when I'm done playing or when I'm done playing with Joey, and it’s like, ‘Man, I wish I would've just watched a little bit more.’”