Votto of old keeps Reds unbeaten with win over Cards
CINCINNATI (AP) — With Joey Votto playing like an MVP again, the Cincinnati Reds have stayed unbeaten.
Votto hit a pair of two-run homers — the strongest indication yet that he’s fully back in form — and Todd Frazier had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly on Friday night, keeping the Cincinnati Reds undefeated with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Reds are 4-0 for the first time since 2011, when they won their first five games. They’ve won each game in their final at-bat.
Votto homered off John Lackey in each of his first two at-bats. Frazier’s sacrifice fly in the eighth off Jordan Walden (0-1) drove in Billy Hamilton and marked the second time this week that he’s knocked in the deciding run.
J.J. Hoover (2-0) escaped a threat in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman gave up a hit and fanned two in the ninth for his second save.
Votto hit only six homers last season — the last one on May 10 — and didn’t play after July 5 because of strained muscles above his left knee. He showed up for spring training feeling strong and has played to his 2010 National League MVP form so far.
“He was terrific,” manager Bryan Price said. “He’s doing a lot of things really well. It’s nice to have him back with his athleticism.”
He had his first multihomer game since May 13, 2012, and the 10th of his career. In four games, Votto is 7 for 17 with three homers and eight RBIs.
Votto had two singles in the season opener, a game-ending RBI single in the 11th inning of the second game, and a two-run homer on Thursday as the Reds swept the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It’s early. It’ll level off,” Votto said. “I didn’t have a great spring, but I felt very good. Physically, I was in a good frame which usually means I’m going to have a good year.”
Jason Marquis made his first start in the majors since July 19, 2013 with San Diego. He had Tommy John surgery and made nine appearances in the minors with the Phillies last season as part of his comeback.
The 36-year-old was in line for the win, handing a 4-3 lead to the bullpen in the seventh. Marquis retired 12 in a row after Randal Grichuk’s two-run homer.
“I gave up the home run to the No 8 batter there, and I felt like I wasn’t doing my job,” Marquis said. “Luckily, Joey came through.”
The Cardinals put together three singles in the seventh, with Jason Heyward’s hit up the middle tying it at 4.
The Reds had a pregame tribute on the videoboard for of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend, who died in a car crash during the offseason. Also, a tribute to Lauren Hill, the college basketball player who died from a brain tumor on Friday.
Hamilton’s steal in the eighth left him 7 for 7 this season. He’s the first Reds player to steal a base in each of the first four games since 1988, when Barry Larkin had a steal in each of the first six.. Hamilton is 7 for 7 career off Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
Cardinals: Reserve catcher Tony Cruz went on paternity leave. He’s expected back on Monday. Catcher Ed Easley was called up from Triple-A Memphis for his major league debut.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey is scheduled to make his first rehab start on Sunday at Triple-A Louisville. He’s on the DL recovering from surgery on his forearm last September.
Cardinals: Michael Wacha has made six career appearances against the Reds, going 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA.
Reds: Johnny Cueto makes his second start. He threw seven shutout innings but didn’t get the decision in a 5-2 win over the Pirates on Monday. Cueto is 2-3 career against the Cardinals.
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