The weekend is dedicated to Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. But Friday night belonged to Joey Votto.
The slugger broke out of an 0-for-13 slump with a pair of hits, the biggest a go-ahead two-run homer as the Reds cooled off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 at Great American Ball Park. It was Votto’s first multi-hit game since Aug. 24.
Votto’s slump-busting night added to the festivities as the crowd stuck around after the game to honor the Great Eight, the eight position players who led the Reds to consecutive World Series championships in 1975-76. With nine of the Reds’ top 17 career home run leaders in attendance Friday, Votto wanted to provide his own tribute.
“I was trying to do my best to put on a little show for the Great Eight,” Votto said smiling. “And, uh, I’m sure they weren’t watching.”
The 33,778 who packed Great American Ball Park were. Almost all were on their feet in the fifth. That’s when Votto drilled his line-drive homer that needed every inch of its 356 feet to clear the left-field wall for his 22nd home run. The blast also scored Shin-Soo Choo.
The victory was the Reds’ fifth in their last seven games, four of them against two of baseball’s best teams in the St. Louis Cardinals (three) and now the Dodgers. The Dodgers, who entered the game leading the NL West by 12 games, fell to 36-10 since the All-Star break.
Votto entered Friday with five hits in his last 40 at-bats. That almost seems like a distant memory for Reds fans.
“He came through at the right time,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s what the big boys do.”
Votto’s shot — both to his confidence and Cincinnati’s playoff aspirations — provided some early fireworks on an already festive night. The Great Eight assembled on the field after the game, the first time all have been at GABP at the same time. The weekend honors Morgan, who will have a statute outside the stadium dedicated to him 10 a.m. this morning.
The three runs were just enough for starter Mike Leake (12-6). After surrendering a two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez just four batters into the game, Leake settled down to limit the Dodgers to three hits over the next 6 2/3 innings. Aroldis Chapman struck out the final three batters swinging — Hanley Ramirez ended the game whiffing at a 101-mph fastball and losing his bat to the backstop — for his 35th save.
Among other highlights for the Reds, Zack Cozart singled in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games. Pinch-runner Billy Hamilton entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning and stole second, his third steal in as many attempts.
Dodgers at Reds, 1:05 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410