Hal McCoy: Votto explodes as Reds lose

Joey Votto was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it any more. Unfortunately for Votto, umpire Bill Welke was mad as hell, too, and he wasn’t going to take it any more, either.

The Cincinnati Reds lost another ho-hum baseball game Wednesday night, 5-4, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But Votto and Welke sprinkled some spice into it in the eighth inning. The Reds, down two runs, had two runners on base and Votto at the plate.

With the count 1-and-2, Votto stepped away from the box and asked for time. Welke said no. Votto turned toward his dugout and mouthed to manager Bryan Price, “He won’t give me time.”

Welke ejected Votto. Votto slammed his helmet to the ground and for the next two minutes had to be restrained from attacking Welke while getting into his face. But umpire Laz Diaz, a former Marine, kept his arms wrapped around Votto to prevent mayhem.

“Joey asked for time and was denied it and he looked at me and that’s when I went out there,” said Price, who was also ejected. “That’s how things got started. The argument was that when you call time out you should be granted time out.”

Votto was long gone after the game so his version remains to be told.

“By the time I got out there Joey had been ejected,” said Price. “My argument was that when a guy asks for time out you give him time out. You can give him a certain amount of time outs, then you ask him to get in the box or you’ll put the ball in play.

“I do know Joey has a good rapport with the umpires and when he talks to them he talks respectfully,” Price added. “But it got sideways between them and it went in a direction we hoped it wouldn’t. Joey handled himself professionally up until the ejection. Then he was upset, Bill was upset, I was upset.”

And the game?

The learning curve takes some sharp twists and turns for young pitchers trying to state their case for inclusion in the Reds starting rotation.

For five inning, Keyvius Sampson was traveling the straight and narrow — one run, two hits, one walk, three strikeouts and a tie game.

Then came the sixth, the big bend in the road, the big curve, and Sampon ended up in a ditch.

He gave up a grand slam to Jung Ho Kang, the first by a Pirate this year and the seventh hit against Reds pitchers.

Just that quick, a tie game became a four-run deficit for the Reds and one batter later, a walk to Neil Walker, Sampson’s night was finished. And although the Reds crept back late in the game, they didn’t climb all the way back.

The big question? Why was Sampson permitted to face Kang with the bases loaded?

“Keyvius had thrown the ball really well, five nice innings with a low pitch count,” said Price. “Kang was 0 for 4 in his career against Sampson so I let him face him. It didn’t work out well and that’s on me. It was my decision and I own that. I felt like he was the guy for that at-bat.”

Said Sampson, “I kept going inside on him the whole game and he hadn’t caught up to it. So I stuck with the same game plan, but I didn’t get that pitch in enough. I left it over the plate and anybody could have hit that pitch.”

Price said he wanted Sampson to get through six innings and leave with positive vibrations. Didn’t happen.

“At some point there has to be an expectation a quality start has to start with six innings,” said Price. “We don’t want the feel-good moments to be five innings. That doesn’t satisfy anybody and certainly doesn’t satisfy our club’s needs. Nor does it help Keyvius or his development. He deserved to face Kang and it didn’t work out.”

Sampson’s opposite, J.A. Happ, held the Reds to two runs and three hits over six innings, walking none and striking out 10.

Todd Frazier drove in the Reds’ first two runs with his 31st home run in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.