Votto’s one-out, two-run homer in the ninth tied the game, lifted the Reds’ spirits, only to see it evaporate in the 11th.
What made it triply disheartening? The standings.
Any thoughts the Reds harbored of winning the National League Central Division title is fast dying on the grass of Truist Park.
For the second straight night, the Reds lost to the Atlanta Braves. Meanwhile, the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers throttled the emaciated Chicago Cubs.
So, with 47 games to play, the Reds are eight games behind the Brewers and need to focus on the second wild card spot. They trail the San Diego Padres for that position by 4 1/2 games.
“Getting walked off is never good, especially when you’re ahead,” said Votto. “It was a comeback and we were on our way to completing the comeback and we just didn’t finish it up. Every game is so meaningful right now.”
Votto’s two home runs gave him 14 in 20 games, something only Frank Robinson ever did in a Reds uniform.
“May he rest in peace, I absolutely love Frank Robinson,” said Votto. “I got to meet the great Frank Robinson at the All-Star game in 2017. I asked him some questions and he was generous with his time. He played the game with a great reputation, played the game in all facets of the game. One of the greatest hitters of all time, one of the greatest Reds of all-time.”
And speaking of great names, Votto passed Pete Rose on the Reds’ all-time RBI list and tied Ty Cobb in career walks.
Asked what it is like to hear his name associated with Robinson, Rose and Cobb, Votto said, “Humbled, but also meeting expectations. I’ve had high standards for my play.
“I don’t want to take a back seat to many players,” he added. “Without getting too big for my britches, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Reds starter Wade Miley gave up five runs in the first three innings and the Reds spent the rest of the evening catching up.
The bullpen of Luis Cessa, Justin Wilson, Heath Hembree, Michael Lorenzen and Mychal Givens held the Braves to one hit over the last 5 2/3 innings until the Albies home run.
The Reds were 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position, stranded 12 runners and struck out 14 times.
Mike Moustakas, back playing baseball after spending 2 1/2 months on the injured, suffered the misfortune of stranding seven runners.
He made the third out three times. He struck out with two on in the first. He fouled out with the bases loaded in the third. He struck out with two on in the seventh.
The Braves, winners of seven of their last eight, jumped on Miley for a run in the first on a walk to Jorge Soler and a two-out double by Austin Riley off the glove of center fielder Tyler Naquin.
They made it 3-0 in the second on a two-run home run by eight-hole hitter Guillermo Heredia.
The lead swelled to 5-0 in the third on another run-scoring double by Riley and a sacrifice fly by Dansby Swanson.
From there, Atlanta’s bats went silent and the Reds pecked away.
They scored two in the sixth on Votto’s first home run, his 24th of the season and longest, 441 feet to dead center.
The Reds crept to within 5-3 in the eighth on Tyler Naquin’s bloop double to right and Eugenio Suarez’s double off the left center wall.
But Tucker Barnhart flied to left, pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson struck out and Farmer flied to center.
Atlanta closer Will Smith, owner of 23 saves, was tasked with putting a ribbon on it in the ninth. He didn’t.
With one out, Smith hit Nick Castellanos with a pitch and Votto unloaded again, a two-run game-tying home run to right field, his fourth hit to go with a walk in five times at the plate.
Lorenzen pitched the bottom of the ninth and he issued two walks and the Braves had runners on third and second with two outs, the winning run 90 feet away. Lorenzen blew away Ehire Adrianza on 2-and-2 96 mph fastball to send the game into extra innings.
Givens pitched the bottom of the 10th and he, too, faced a third-and-second with two outs, the winning run 90 feet away.
After a long battle, Givens struck out former Reds’ outfielder Duvall on a 3-and-2 changeup, sending the game into the 11th.
With a one-run lead in the bottom of the 11th, Sims made his second appearance since coming off the injured list. With the free runner on second, he struck out Travis d’Arnaud and got Guillermo Heredia to fly out to right. Sims walked Joc Pederson on a full count and Albies blasted the hearts right out of the Reds.