Like vet, like rookie: Votto, Elly stretch Reds' streak to 12 in thrilling fashion

June 24th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- Two different generations of Reds stars -- and -- combined forces on Friday night for a special game amid a special winning streak during what has all the makings of a special season for Cincinnati.

It took an 11-10 thriller before a raucous sellout crowd of 43,086 fans at Great American Ball Park to defeat the Braves and extend the Reds' winning streak to 12 games. The 39-year-old Votto hit a game-tying solo home run and a go-ahead three-run homer. 

The 21-year-old rookie De La Cruz managed to overshadow Votto's effort by hitting for the cycle -- something not achieved by a Reds hitter in 34 years.

“That’s special stuff right there," Reds second baseman Jonathan India said. “It’s a special time in Cincinnati and we’re enjoying every part of it.”

Atlanta, which has the National League's best record, came into Cincy with an eight-game winning streak. For the Reds to keep their streak alive and end the Braves' winning ways, they had to bounce back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-5 and then hold on for dear life after taking an 11-7 lead in the sixth inning and watching it shrink to 11-10 by the ninth. 

It was the Reds' fifth straight come-from-behind win and their Major League-leading 27th this season. Their winning streak is the franchise's longest since 1957, and they sit in first place in the NL Central at 41-35.

“I think games like this really show you what’s possible and what we’re capable of," Reds manager David Bell said.

A laborious 43-pitch first inning by Reds starter Luke Weaver spotted the Braves five runs. Weaver was one strike from limiting the damage to one run before Travis d'Arnaud clubbed a three-run homer to right-center field. 

“There’s no panic. We’re like, ‘OK, it’s like 0-0 still,'" India said.

By the second inning, the Reds had an answer. De La Cruz smoked a 116.6 mph line drive off the right-center-field wall for a double. Jake Fraley followed with a two-run homer to cut the deficit to three runs.

De La Cruz made it a one-run game when he lifted a two-out, two-run homer to right field in the third inning.

Votto, who is four games back from returning from last season’s left shoulder surgery, completed the Reds' first comeback effort with his game-tying homer to center field to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. 

"These heavyweight fights, hopefully we can earn the respect of the other heavyweights and swing back," Votto said.

The Braves took a two-run lead back in the top of the fifth on Matt Olson's two-run homer to left field off reliever Daniel Duarte. It didn't last long.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, De La Cruz's third hit -- an RBI broken-bat single to center field -- made it a one-run game. Two batters later with two outs, Votto hit a 3-1 Collin McHugh sweeper for a three-run homer to right-center field.

“This is a really great experience for me," Votto said. "I don’t like getting ahead of ourselves, because it’s June. This has been fun so far. I think we’ve got really good potential. I think the average Reds fan at home has a team that they, their grandparents [and] kids can have a great time watching. Because it’s a fun brand of baseball."

In the sixth against Braves reliever Ben Heller, De La Cruz hit an RBI triple to right field to complete the cycle -- the first by a Red since Eric Davis on June 2, 1989 -- and extend the Reds’ lead to 11-7.

De La Cruz didn't feel like he upstaged Votto.

"It doesn't matter who does it in the game, we're all united and that's how we're going to do this," De La Cruz said via translator Jorge Merlos.

De La Cruz called it an honor to play with Votto.

"Because he's just a legend of the game," De La Cruz said. "I admire him, he admires me back. He tells me that as well. I mean, we just have these conversations over and over, how much we respect each other…"

"I didn't say I admired you back," Votto blurted from the back of the press conference room, drawing laughs. “But I do. I do admire you."

"I heard you say it," De La Cruz replied, in English.

Votto had trouble thinking of another player to compare with De La Cruz.

“Has there been a better switch-hitting, speed, power guy? The only comp I can think of is Mickey Mantle -- a young Mickey Mantle," Votto said. "That’s unfair to put on Elly, [comparing him with] maybe one of the greatest players of all time. Elly has got plenty of time to entertain the fans.

"There’s no comparison. I’ve got nobody to compare him to. There’s no precedent that I’ve seen in my experience. How lucky are we in Cincinnati to have him?"