Red Hot

The Reds took over first in the NL Central after winning 6 of their last 7 games. Joey Votto's bat is heating up and the past couple of games he's added a couple of home runs to go with his on-base percentage which is the second highest in the league. Though opponents limit offerings to Votto, he continues to find way to help the Reds win.

Cincinnati took their home series against Miami with a 10-6 win Sunday. The victory was the Reds' sixth in the last seven games and moved them into first place in the NL Central after a St. Louis loss. For much of the contest it was closer than the final score indicated, with the score tied at two after six innings. The Reds then erupted for eight runs in the seventh inning which turned out to be plenty to cover the Marlins four-run ninth.

Joey Votto got the scoring started in the bottom of the first with a two-out solo home run. Later he broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with an RBI single. He also got a hit in the seventh to load the bases with no one out before Brandon Phillips plated the go-ahead runs with a two-run single. Reds hitters combined for seven hits and two walks in the inning. Todd Frazier plated three with a pinch-hit double. The rally also included an RBI single by Devin Mesoraco, and run-scoring doubles by Shin-Sin Choo and Xavier Paul.

Votto ended the contest with three hits while Choo reached safely all five times he went to the plate getting a couple of hits with a walk and twice hit by pitches. Paul also added a couple of hits. Choo has been plunked an incredible nine times in the first three weeks of the season, more than any other NL team. On the bump Homer Bailey got no decision from a quality start, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out eight before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter after six innings. Logan Ondrusek relieved him, struck out all three batters faced, and picked up the win. Alfredo Simon retired the side in order in the eighth.

Votto is quietly putting together another solid year. The big thing quieting him a bit has been opponents' refusal to pitch to him as he leads the league with 25 walks and four intentional passes. Over the past couple of games the Marlins challenged him more and succeeded in making the other teams look smart for walking him as Votto has gone 7-11 with a couple of home runs. He now has three home runs and seven RBI.

Coming into the weekend perhaps many Reds fans were worried about the absence of home runs from his game, especially considering he'd gone homerless last season after returning from knee surgery. Of course Votto is one of those rare players that can have the casual fan asking "What's wrong?" while he's reaching base safely in over half of his plate appearances. Currently he has MLB's second highest on-base percentage, trailing only teammate Choo who benefits from batting in front of him.

Actually Votto's home run stroke this year is ahead of the pace he had one year ago. In 2012 he didn't hit his third home run until May 13. Of course he also hit his fourth and fifth home runs on May 13 when the Reds won on his walk-off grand slam. His outburst that day lifted his OPS to over 1.000 and he went on a tear that lifted him atop the list of NL MVP candidates before the knee injury interrupted his season.

What makes Votto unique is that he not only hits for power, but brings an advanced plate discipline into the batter's box. His approach seems more intent to simply drive the ball hard, whether it goes over the fence or not. Many of them do clear the wall and the ones that don't frequently find gaps for extra bases. In 2011 he led the NL with 40 doubles and surpassed that total last season despite missing over a month with his injury. He's also content to take what pitches are offered to him instead of trying to force something to happen by swinging at the "pitcher's pitch". Thus far in 2012 he's on his way toward leading the NL in BB's for the third consecutive season. In Votto's case, just getting ball three almost the same as walking. Since last year when he's ended his plate appearance with a count of 3-0 or 3-1 he's eventually walked in 69 of 88 times and gone 12-18 with a sac fly. 119 times the count has gone full and he's reached safely in 70 of those situations.

There was no keeping secret of Votto's MVP effort in 2010 and the league will obviously react to it. One of the big adjustments is that opponents no longer try to catch the outside corner of the plate against him after over half of his 37 home run sin that season were pushed over the opposite field fence. Votto has made adjustments too and continues to do things to help his team win games even when it compromises his HR total. He's picked up the moniker "Vottomatic" which has been well-earned since his arrival late in the 07 season. Over that time he's batted with a runner on third and less than two out 166 times. Those plate appearances have produced 99 RBI and 37 walks (82%). There is no shortage of eye-popping stats for Votto because he consistently forces opponents to offer him something he can drive and takes a walk when they won't comply. During his career over 70% of the batted balls that have come off of his bat have been rated as line drives and three quarters of them resulted in hits.

At the time he got hurt last year he was battling with the Pirate's Andrew McCutchen for his second MVP award. Ultimately McCutchen faded, he went on the DL and the honor went to Buster Posey. The Reds are now in the top three NL teams in runs scored and you can put Votto back on the list to run with that company in 2013, regardless how many home runs he hits. Opponents' unwillingness to pitch to him does not compromise his efforts to win games and there's a reason the Reds invested over $200 million to have control over which team he's helping over the next ten years.

News from the Farm:

Louisville fell behind by two in the sixth before losing 2-1 at Indianapolis. The Bats were limited to two hits and scored their run on a solo homer by Denis Phipps. Yohan Pino saw his first action for the Bats after a promotion from Pensacola and allowed two unearned runs in five-plus innings for the loss. Mark Prior tossed two scoreless innings of relief.

Pensacola allowed four in the first en route to a 7-3 loss at Jackson. Donald Lutz cut the Generals' lead to 4-2 with a two-run homer in the third inning. He and Theo Bowe each had two of the Wahoos' six hits. Brodie Greene reached safely three times via a hit and two walks. Daniel Renken was roughed up for six runs in five innings and took the loss. Loek Van Mil and Drew Hayes both tossed a perfect inning of relief. Van Mil has not allowed a run in six of his seven appearances this year.

Bakersfield allowed the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth in a 6-5 loss at Lancaster. Jonathan Moscot allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits in five plus innings for no decision. Three Blaze relievers each were charged with one run with Kyle McMyne taking the loss. Yorman Rodriguez manufactured the first run of the game by singling, stealing second, advancing to third on an errant throw, and scoring on a wild pitch. Chris Berset gave Bakersfield another lead with a home run in the second. Dominic D'Anna tied the score at five with a three run homer in the seventh. Berset had a couple of hits on the evening while Michael Gilmartin reached safely with a couple of hits and a walk.

Dayton lost a four-run lead and their game to visiting Bowling Green by a score of 7-5. Jesse Winker got the Dragons on the board with a two-run homer in the first inning. They took a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning after an RBI single by Tanner Rahier and two-run double by Wagner Gomez. Winker went 1-2 with two walks and is now 6-10 over his last three games. Gomez and Junior Arias each had two of the nine Dayton hits while Beau Amaral reached via a hit and a walk. Wandy Peralta got the start and was limited to four innings over which he allowed one run on two hits while running up his pitch count with five strikeouts and four walks. Andrew Chacin lost the lead in the eighth and was charged with a blown save and the loss.

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