Joey Votto stayed in the game as best as one can from the dugout, encouraging his teammates and warning baserunners about possible pick-off attempts. For the first time since Sept. 2, 2016, he didn’t make an appearance for the Cincinnati Reds, ending a streak of 202 straight starts.
Manager Bryan Price picked a good time to rest Votto. It’s unlikely he would have made much of a difference in a 13-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.
“Those are the games you definitely want to put in the rear-view mirror,” Votto said.
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Votto and his teammates would like to forget this game as fast as possible. The Reds committed three errors. Seven pitchers combined to give up four home runs and eight other hits and walk 11 batters. After scoring four runs on five hits in the first three innings, the Reds collected two hits the rest of the way and didn’t score again.
The Reds (2-10) already had the worst record in baseball, and now they have the franchise’s worst record through 12 games since 1955. Playing Votto wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s a move with the long-term goal of keeping the team’s most valuable player healthy for the months and years to come.
“I feel fortunate I get to play for a manager that gives me options,” Votto said, “and in the past at times, he’s wanted me to play, and usually I just kept playing. Today we just decided it was a good day. It made sense to take today off. We agreed mutually, but … nothing’s mutual. Ultimately, he does make the decision. It was as mutual as it can be, and he’s very generous in that regard.”
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The Reds lost their fifth straight game, and this ranks among the worst losses of the season for a number of reasons. For one, it looked as if the Reds might have a chance to win the game in the early innings, taking a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning.
That was a distant memory by the end of the seventh. Rookie relievers Zack Weiss, who made his big-league debut, and Tanner Rainey, making his second appearance in the major leagues, combined to allow seven runs on three hits and five walks.
Weiss didn’t record an out, giving up home runs to the first two batters he saw, Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina, and then walking two batters. Rainey started his appearance with three straight walks.
They may be rookies, but Price didn’t give them a pass after the game. The Reds used six relievers the previous day in a 4-3, 12-inning loss in Philadelphia and needed the relievers who didn’t appear in that game to contribute in this game.
It didn’t help that starter Sal Romano left in the game in the fifth, having allowed three earned runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked in the tying run in the fifth, and then Austin Brice gave up the go-ahead run, a home run by Paul DeJong in the sixth. That was just a prelude to the struggles by Weiss and Rainey in the seventh.
“I needed the younger guys to come in and pitch today,” Price said. “We knew that coming in unless Sal could go deep into the game. It was inevitable that those kids were going to pitch. That’s not a bad thing. They’ve got to come up here and contribute. They’re part of a big-league bullpen, and they do have to pitch. Unfortunately, they really struggled to throw it over, and that inning kind of put the game out of reach.”
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Price used Cody Reed, who was scheduled to start Saturday, in the eighth and then turned to infielder Cliff Pennington in the ninth. The veteran Pennington had pitched once in his career and did a better job than some of the pitchers who preceded him. He allowed one run on one hit with two walks.
At the very least, the move allowed Price to avoid pitching Wandy Peralta, Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes or Kevin Quackenbush, all of whom pitched Wednesday.
“The other guys have to shoulder the load,” Price said. “There’s no way other way to do it. If you blow your bullpen up in April and May because you don’t want to expose young pitchers … you can’t do that. I won’t do that.”