Joey Votto missed the pregame introductions and then struck out three times in a row before showing up when the Cincinnati Reds needed him the most Monday.
Votto singled to center with one out in the eighth inning, scoring Scott Schebler and Billy Hamilton to break a 2-2 tie and carrying the Reds to a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park.
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“That’s why they pay me the big bucks,” Votto said. “I had an obligation. That’s something I pride myself on. … I struggled the first three at-bats and learned from those.”
Here are five takeaways from the Reds’ victory, which came in front of the largest regular-season crowd in the history of the stadium (43,683):
1. Cozart stars: Shortstop Zack Cozart, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, went 3-for-3 with two doubles and drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. He had the Reds’ only three hits until they scored five runs in the eighth inning to rally from a 2-1 deficit.
“It’s special,” Cozart said. “For me personally, I didn’t know what to expect because it’s been so long since I’ve been out there in a meaningful game. It felt good just to hear my name announced, to be in the lineup and be able to compete out there.”
2. Bruce clutch: Reds right fielder Jay Bruce followed Votto’s two-run single two batters later with a two-run single of his own, stretching the lead to four runs.
“Everyone makes this big deal about Opening Day,” Bruce said, “and obviously in the standings, it could be the least important game of the year, but it’s awesome to get that win and get momentum going the right way, especially in a comeback. The way we won was great.”
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3. Igelsias solid: Raisel Iglesias, the least-experienced Reds pitcher to start Opening Day since Frank Pastore in 1980, allowed two earned runs on six hits in six innings. He struck out seven batters and walked none. The Phillies scored their only runs on a two-run home run by Freddy Galvis in the second inning.
“Iglesias was great,” Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said. “He pulled that one changeup that Galvis hit to the middle part of the plate. Otherwise, he had eveything going.”
4. Bullpen dominant: Jumbo Diaz, Tony Cingrani, Ross Ohlendorf and J.J. Hoover combined to blank the Philles in the final three innings. They allowed no hits and walked one. Hoover set down the side in order in the ninth thanks to diving catches by Holt, who took over in left field in the ninth, and Billy Hamilton in center.
5. Absent Votto: Votto didn’t have much of an explanation for why he didn’t join his teammates for pregame introductions. He referenced two celebrations he did in spring training when asked about it.
“I did the LeBron (James),” he said. “I did the (Christiano) Ronaldo. I figured Opening Day I would do the no-show. I meant to do it.”