McCoy: Votto’s bat, Senzel’s glove help Reds beat Cubs

When the game began Wednesday night in Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto owned zero extra base hits at home for the 2022 season.

Then the inevitable happened. Votto homered and tripled, drove in three runs, and he was the focal point of a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Since coming off the injured list over the weekend, Votto has raised his batting average from .122 to .161.

And he added some spice to the game when Cubs relief pitcher Rowan Wick nearly hit him with a pitch in the eighth inning. He then walked on four pitches in the eighth and began shouting at the Cubs from first base to their third-base dugout.

When the Cubs came to bat in the ninth, Reds relief pitcher Hunter Strickland hit Patrick Wisdom with a pitch, and he shouted at Strickland as he walked to first bases.

Cubs manager David Ross sprinted toward home plate, arms flailing, and umpire Dan Merzel ejected him immediately. Ross didn’t leave for several minutes, protesting that Strickland should be ejected.

The ninth inning was a finger-biter for the Reds. They led 4-2 with one out when Strickland hit Wisdom. He then walked Alfonso Rivas on a full count, putting the potential tying runs on base.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras drove one to deep right center, and Nick Senzel speedily chased it down with a leap against the wall, one of three ultra-special defensive plays Senzel made on this night.

Pinch-hitter Nicol Hoerner blooped a single to right, scoring Wisdom to make it 4-3 and put the tying run on third.

Strickland ended it by striking out Christopher Morel. It was Strickland’s first save in three years.

Votto’s home run, his second of the year, came in the second and his two-run triple came in the third. And then the bats went silent.

The much-maligned bullpen, though, kept the Cubs’ bats quiet — runless innings from Tony Santillan, Alexis Diaz and Art Warren before Strickland made is shaky save in the ninth.

After losing the first two games of the four-game series, 7-4 and 11-4, the Reds righted themselves for a day and put themselves in position to split the series with a win Thursday afternoon behind pitcher Hunter Greene.

As has happened time and again this season, the Reds starting pitcher struggled mightily in the first inning.

Luis Castillo needed 32 pitches to work his way through the first inning and gave up two runs.

He walked leadoff hitter Christopher Morel on a full count and Seiya Suzuki singled. That brought up the Reds number one nemesis, Ian Happ, who doubled off the left field wall for a 2-0 lead.

From there, Castillo settled in. He struck out the side in the third — Rafael Ortega, Happ and Suzuki, the heart of the Cubs order.

After the first inning, only two runners reached base through the fifth inning, but Castillo was pulled after five innings and 94 pitches.

Votto led the second inning against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks with his home run, cutting Chicago’s lead to 2-1.

The Reds put three on the scoreboard in the third, with Votto’s two-run triple providing the Reds with a 4-2 lead.

The inning began with a single by catcher Aramis Garcia and Matt Reynolds followed with a single. Tommy Pham tied it with a two-out single and Votto pulled his two-run triple over the first base bag and into the right field corner.

Santillan replaced Castillo for the sixth and walked two but ended it on a full-count fly ball to left by Alfonso Rivas.

Diaz was manager David Bell’s choice for the seventh inning and he went 1-2-3, retiring Morel on a called strike three to end the inning.

Warren was the man in the eighth and he, too, pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Then Strickland, although shaky and thanks to the wondrous catch by Senzel, put the finishing touches on it.

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