Votto caps resurgent season with 36th homer, Reds top Pirates in season finale

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH — Joey Votto capped off a resurgent season by hitting his 36th home run, Nick Castellanos reached the 100-RBI plateau for the second time in his career and the Cincinnati Reds topped Pittsburgh 6-3 win on Sunday.

Rookie Reiver Sanmartin (2-0) beat the Pirates for the second time in as many starts as Cincinnati finished over .500 (83-29) over the course of a 162-game season for the first time since 2013.

Votto’s three-run shot off Cody Ponce (0-6) during Cincinnati’s four-run fifth inning gave the 38-year-old first baseman 99 RBIs on the season, his highest total since 2017. Aristedes Aquino added his 10th home run for the Reds, who spoiled Pittsburgh’s last chance to earn a series sweep.

The Pirates capped off their third straight last-place finish in the NL Central by falling to 0-16 this season when having an opportunity to every game of a series. Pittsburgh’s 61-101 mark is the franchise’s worst since 2010.

Pirates shortstop prospect Oneil Cruz hit his first major-league home run in the ninth a day after having two hits in his big-league debut on Saturday night. Michael Chavis added three hits for the Pirates.

Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller allowed one run in three innings. The 25-year-old remains a bit of an enigma three seasons into his career. Once considered one of the team’s top pitching prospects, Keller went 5-11 with a 6.17 ERA.

The Pirates are still in the early stages of a top-to-bottom makeover. While there have been signs of progress at the minor-league level, the major-league product remains underwhelming.

Pittsburgh scored the fewest runs (610) and hit the fewest home runs (124) in the majors by considerable margins. The pitching staff was one of three teams — fellow cellar-dwellers Arizona and Baltimore were the others — to post a team ERA north of 5.00.

While the Pirates were basically out of contention by late spring, the Reds found themselves in playoff position in late August before a 14-22 swoon over the final six weeks pushed them out of the postseason mix.

Despite the slide and the letdown that came after being officially eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday, Cincinnati ended with a flourish by sending 10 batters to the plate in the fifth to break open a tie game.

Jonathan India reached after getting hit by a pitch with one out. Max Shrock followed with a double that led to a bizarre sequence the ended with Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton’s third ejection of the season.

Second-base umpire Randy Rosenberg ruled India out for failing to touch second on Shrock’s double. The play was overturned on replay and Shelton raced out to voice his objection even though video clearly showed India did touch the bag.

Aquino followed by singling home India. Aquino and Shrock then trotted home after Votto’s shot to the seats in right field finished off a remarkable comeback season for the 15-year veteran.

Votto hit .266 with 36 homers and 99 RBIs a year after batting a career-worst .226 during the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season.

The outburst in the fifth was more than enough for Sanmartin. The 25-year-old lefthander had little trouble with the Pirates for the second time in a week. Sanmartin overcame a somewhat shaky opening frame to allow one run on seven hits over six innings with one walk and six strikeouts.