Joey Votto’s grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday gave the Cincinnati Reds a 9-6 victory over the Washington Nationals. It was the third home run of the afternoon for Votto, who entered Sunday’s contest with just a pair of home runs on the season.
Votto, who also doubled and flew out to the warning track, was four for five at the plate, scoring four times and driving in six runs. The outburst marked his eighth straight game with a hit, a streak that has helped his batting average improve 37 points, from .282 to .319 so far this season. That production is also more in line with what the Reds were expecting after handing Votto a ten year, $225 million extension of his contract.
Mother’s Day Breakout
Votto is an essential component in the Reds’ offense and Sunday’s performance could be the jumpstart he needs to propel the team into playoff contention. He launched a pair of solo home runs off Edwin Jackson in the first and fourth innings, flew out to the center field wall against Tom Gorzelanny in the sixth and doubled off Sean Burnett in the eighth. Those at bats all helped set the stage for his ninth inning heroics.
Facing Henry Rodriguez, who is filling in for the injured Drew Storen, Votto hammered a 2-2 pitch over the wall in center field for the game winner. Votto lived the dream of every kid playing in their backyard, only on the grandest stage possible in a major league ballpark. According to Stats LLC, Votto is the first player since at least 1957 to hit a game ending grand slam for their third home run of a game.
It was also one of two walk off grand slams on Mother’s Day; Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins had one to finish the Mets off. That marked Sunday as the first time that two walk off grand slams were hit on the same day since April 10, 1998. On that day, it was Mo Vaughn for the Red Sox and Steve Finley for the San Diego Padres doing the honors.
Votto in 2012
Votto’s signing of a long term deal with the Reds made for a refreshing change of pace. It’s rare that superstar players stay in small markets in this day and age. He’s put up decent numbers for the Reds so far this season.
Votto leads the National League in doubles with 16 and also leads in walks with 31. The walks have definitely made an impact, boosting his on base percentage to a stellar .466 mark, 58 points higher than his career .408. He’s slugging .593 on the season, which is good for seventh in the league and his 24 runs batted in are eighth in the National League through Sunday’s action. He also is fourth in the league in OPS at 1.059 and is tied for thirteenth in runs scored with 21.
Votto’s Previous Seasons
The ability to hit for power and average is no surprise revelation to the Reds or their fan base. Votto was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2010. That year saw him hit .324 with 37 home runs and 113 runs batted in over the course of 150 games. He also stole a career best 16 bases, scored 106 runs and added 36 doubles while posting a .424 on base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage. The last two led the National League; he also led the NL in OPS with a mark of 1.024 that year.
While Votto’s numbers dropped slightly in 2011, he still compiled a .309 average along with 29 home runs and 103 runs batted in. He scored 101 runs and smacked 40 doubles while drawing 110 walks, helping him to a .416 on base percentage. Votto added a major contribution with his glove, committing just six errors in 1,520 chances at first base. For his efforts, he won the first Gold Glove of his career.
Sunday’s game should quiet the critics wondering where Votto’s power had gone. He hadn’t seen many pitches to hit due to the inconsistent performance of the hitters around him in the lineup: leadoff man Drew Stubbs is hitting .240 while Brandon Phillips languishes at .252 on the year. Votto may strike out a fair amount of the time, as he has 29 times in 113 official plate appearances this season, 506 in 2,338 career at bats.
Most teams will take the middling to high strikeout rate if it comes with prodigious power and run driving in ability that Votto has. The Reds have their franchise player. He showed on Sunday how important to the team he is and he reminds baseball fans of any age just how magical those walk off dreams can be.