By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For some inexplicable reason, Joey Votto wanted to play a meaningless Friday night baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds with seven stitches in his jaw.
That, though, is Joey Votto. He would play baseball on a dark pier in a rainstorm.
On Thursday night in St. Louis, Votto doubled to left and when he slid into second the throw from Tommy Pfam hit Votto flush on the left jaw, opening a gash that required seven stitches.
He didn’t want to leave the game but was forced to so he could have the wound closed.
At 3 a.m. Friday, Reds manager Bryan Price received a text from Votto that read: “I’m playing tonight.”
And so he did, but with little effect on the game as the Reds fell once again to the Cubs, 7-3, a few hours after it was announced that Price would return as manager for the 2017 season.
VOTTO DISPLAYED WHY HE WANTED to play when he came to bat in the ninth inning with the Reds down six runs and a runner on first. Votto launched his 29th home run, a blast over the center field wall that gave him 94 runs batted in. Unfortunately for the Reds, he couldnt hit a six-run homer.
So it was Chicagao’s 102nd victory and Cincinnati’s 93rd defeat. And the Cubs treat the Reds like a pair of old shoes, beating them 13 times in 17 games this season, with two to play.
The night belonged to Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist. He hit two home runs, drove in three runs and scored three. His homers were the 38th and 39th of the season hit by the Cubs against the Reds, the most ever hit by one team against the Reds in one season.
REDS EMERGENCY STARTER JOSH SMITH pitched four perfect innings, 12 up and 12 down, until Zobrist hit his first home run to open the fifth inning.
“There weren’t a whole lot of golden moments in that game for us beyond Votto’s home run and the job Smitty gave us,” said Price. “A guy like Smith is invaluable to us — long relief, middle relief, spot starter and extra innings. He is getting acclimated toward pitching in some higher leveral situations in the big leagues.
“I thought he did a great job tonight and gave us a chance to win, but we weren’t able to do much offensively,” Price added. “He did a terrific job against an outstanding lineup and made good pitches consistently other than a couple of mistakes.”
SMITH IS NO YOUNG gun. He is persistent and dedicated at 29. He was a low draft pick, 21st round in 2010, and just hung around. The Reds actually released him at one point and then re-signed him and he has become a handyman pitcher.
“As long a I’m in a Reds uniform I don’t really care how they used me,” said Smith. “I prefer to start. It is something I’ve done my whole life and I’m comfortable with it. But being in the ‘pen, well, I kind of enjoyed it and it was a good learning experience.”
Of his four perfect innings before Zobrist’s first homer, Smith said, “I challenged a lot of guys early and got a lot of contact. I got deep into the game and kept us in the game. That ball to Zobrist — I just missed my spot. I had been throwing cutters all night and it was working for me. I missed my spot with that one and he took advantage of it. I got a little bit tired in the sixth.”
When he loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth he was replaced by Tony Cingrani. The Cubs scored one run on Kris Bryant’s fielder’s choice grounder to make it 2-0.
THE REDS SCORED A RUN in the sixth on Jose Peraza’s double, a wild pitch and a ground ball to make it 2-1 and the Cubs scored a run in the seventh on Zobrist’s double and Addison Russell’s double to push Chicago’s lead to 3-1.
Then it all got away in a quick rush against Abel De Los Santo. The Cubs scored four runs on three hits and a walk, including Zobrist’s second home run of the night, a two-run rip to right.
The Reds had only five hits off five Cubs pitchers, two by Ivan DeJesus Jr.