By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Joey Votto used a different ‘F’ word to describe the game-winning walk-off home run he unleashed Tuesday night in the bottom of the ninth, but there definitely was frustration involved. Frustration, though, was not the F-word he used.
With the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals tied with one out in the ninth, Votto crushed a 2-and-0 pitch offered by left hander Kevin Siegrist over the center field wall for a 7-6 Reds victory.
Votto stood briefly at home plate, semi-admiring his work, and when it was mentioned, he said, “Yeah, I hit the f—— out it. That’s why. I hit it hard.”
So the frustration evaporated and the frustration wasn’t just because Votto was 0 for 10 with six strikeouts for his career against Siegrist. It was deeper than that. It was 2 1/2 months of frustration.
IN THE SEVENTH INNING, facing a guy named Dean Kiekhefer, Votto struck out. And it all bubbled over. He unleashed an impressive stream of expletives, fired a high, hard one with his batting helmet and continued his explosion in the dugout for several seconds.
“Yeah, I’m hitting .220, man,” he said in explanation. “I’m hitting .220 and it’s June. I’m frustrated. And we’re losing a lot. Priority No. 1 is that I’m hitting .220 and we’re losing.”
Retribution, for one day and one at bat, came against Siegrist, a rugged left hander who is difficult for everybody to hit. Manager Bryan Price pulled out a sheet and showed a long column of negative numbers for his team against Siegrist.
“Look at this,” he said. “0 for 10. 2 for 10. 2 for 14. I mean, who do you go to? I think we have four hits total against him and he has been in the league, what, four years? Yeah, and he does it against everybody. He is just really good.”
OF COURSE, IT NEVER should have come to this. Thanks, bullpen. Again.
Reds starter John Lamb was matched against Mike Leake, returning to Cincinnati to face his old teammates for the first time since the Reds traded him to San Francisco last July.
And with true irony, Leake gave up four runs in the fourth inning, three coming on Adam Duvall’s 17th home run, a three-run blast. Duvall is the main player the Reds acquired for Leake.
With Duvall’s home run and two more in the sixth, Lamb had a 6-1 lead entering the eighth inning, having given up only four hits.
BUT HIS DAY ENDED in the eighth after her walked the first batter and back-to-back errors by second baseman Brandon Phillips filled the bases.
Blake Wood arrived and gave up a sacrifice fly, a single, an infield hit and a two-run double to Jhonny Peralta to make it 6-4. Then came Tony Cingrani to get the last out of the eighth.
He remained in the game for the ninth and gave up two hits and a two-run, game-tying double to Matt Carpenter.
That set it up for Votto’s magic, his fifth career walk-off home run.
“Siegrist is a tough guy for everybody — right handed, left handed,” said Votto. “I’ve faced him a bunch and I’d like to face him again in the future because he is a guy that you don’t get many opportunities like that. He is a tough matchup.
“I got into a good count, stayed behind the ball and made a good move on it and ended up finishing the game. For every one of those, there are 50 you miss and I’m glad I didn’t miss that one,” said Votto.
IT WAS THE SECOND STRAIGHT excellent outing for Lamb, only he didn’t get credit for anything as he did in his previous start in Colorado when he held the Rockies to one run over seven innings and won the game.
“Preparation and execution,” Price said of Lamb’s two-game resuregence. “I looked at the scoreboard once and he had thrown 24 strikes and six balls. And it was the quality of his strikes and his ability to throw a change-up when he was behind in the count. And had the ability to throw the curveball for a strike and then come back with an even better breaking ball when he ahead in the count.
“A lot of good things,” Price added. “When he needs to make a pitch, he is making it. He is down when it is away and up when it’s close to the hitter and that’s the way you pitch. He is learning to utilize the information when we give it to him and take it into the ballgame.”
WHILE MOST OF THE attention was focused on the return to Cincinnati of pitcher Leake, Lamb pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes — especially the Cardinals. While Leake was the featured presentation, Lamb upstaged him by holding the Cardinals at bay, a Cardinals team that averages 5.38 runs per game, third best in the majors..
Leake? The Reds turned him into an open spigot — six runs and 10 hits that included two home runs over 6 1/3 innings.
And in a bit of twisted irony, Leake was traded by the Reds to the San Francisco Giants last July for Adam Duvall and, like Lamb, Duvall stole the attention and the thunder away from Leake.
Duvall furnished the crushing blow to Leake, a three-run 425-foot home run in the fourth inning when the Reds scored four runs. They added two more in the seventh, one on Billy Hamilton’s second home run of the year.
Leake came back to Cincinnati for his first start against his old teammates with four wins in his last five starts and had given up only six runs in his last five starts. So the Reds scored as many runs, six, in 6 1/3 innings as Leake had surrendered in his previous five games.
Still, after another mess made by the bullpen, Votto cooled his explosive dugout temper and turned it on Siegrist to end the game quickly and abruptly.