And the Cincinnati Reds unleashed the thunder on the Chicago Cubs with four home runs that provided the first five runs in a 7-4 victory.
Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez also homered as the Reds leveled the four-game series at a win apiece. But because Milwaukee buried Pittsburgh, 9-0. the Reds remain seven games out of first place in the National League Central Division.
The Reds added two important runs in the ninth without a home run, a pair of run-scoring doubles by Aristides Aquino and Jonathan India. They were important because Reds relief pitcher Edgar Garcia gave up two home runs to the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth.
The offensive night, though, belonged to Votto, who has homered five times in his last four games.
Winker homered with one out in the first against 11-game loser Adbert Alzolay. Votto then homered with two outs for a 2-0 lead, a blast that left that bat at 114 miles an hour, the fastest by any Reds hitter this season.
Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo tied it in the bottom of the first off Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez to tie it, 2-2.
That’s all they got off Gutierrez. He pitched into the seventh inning and held the Cubs to two runs, five hits, walked three and struck out five during a 109-pitch night.
Votto broke the 2-2 tie with his second home run of the night, 17th of the season, a two-run rip in the third.
Eugenio Suarez made it 5-2 in the sixth, hitting the first pitch thrown by relief pitcher Dan Winkler. It was Suarez’s 19th homer, but he was 6 for his last 51 when he connected.
Votto, though, made it a Votto Night in the third with the defensive play of the game. The Cubs had runners on second and third with one out.
Willson Contreras popped a foul ball toward the stands near first base. Votto raced to the rolled-up tarpaulin near the brick wall. He leaned over the tarp and reached into the stands to snag it.
Seeing Votto off-balance, Rafael Ortega tagged at third and tried to score. Votto in one motion after the catch pegged a strike to catcher Tyler Stephenson, a double play to end the innng.
Asked if he was more satisfied with his two homers or his defensive gem, he said, “I just want to be proficient at my job, so if I’m oh-fer for a long stretch I want to play quality defense.
“Nothing leaves me more dissatisfied than poor defensive play, no matter how many hits I get,” he added. “Every day I have expectations of playing good defense, so I guess that play made me feel good that I was doing my job, helping the team.”
Garcia was asked to finish the game in the ninth with a 7-2 lead, but he gave up home runs to Patrick Wisdom and Kris Bryant.
That forced manager David Bell to bring in Amir Garrett, who is as popular in Wrigley Field as a passed ball or a wild pitch due to his three-year differences with Cubs star Javier Baez.
Garrett walked Anthony Rizzo, but struck out Willson Contreras. And Baez was on deck as a pinch-hitter when Garrett ended the game on a ground ball from David Bote.
Gutierrez was mauled by the New York Mets in his previous start, and it didn’t look good in the first when he gave up the two-run home run to Rizzo. Then he was all aces.
Bell permitted him to start the seventh and he struck out Nico Hoerner. But when he gave up a double and a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate, Bell brought in Sean Doolittle. He walked Kris Bryant to fill the bases with two outs, but retired Rizzo on a first-pitch fly to center.
After the game, before ending his post-game interview, Votto made a stunning revelation.
“I go to the Reds’ Youth Urban Academy often and I am lucky to work with a lot of kids,” he said. “I want to make a promise to them … I’ve been getting into tiffs with umpires of late. There are a few things I don’t really like — breaking or doing damage to equipment, no hustle and no effort, and I don’t like disrespecting or showing up the umpires.
“I want to make a promise to anybody in Cincinnati youth sports that it won’t happen anymore. I want to make that pact with the community. That’s my promise to them, that I will play the game with my heart and play the game respectfully. So now I’m held accountable by my community.”
Votto said he recently watched a girls team in the young program practicing for a national tournament in Vero Beach, Fla.
“I’ve never seen such heart, energy, love and joy for the game,” he said of the girls. “It’s inspiring and I wish them luck in Vero Beach.”