By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — All this game meant was that the Cincinnati Reds and San Padres could rip another game off the calendar.
With neither team going anywhere in October except fishing, golfing, hunting or to stay home and watch Naked & Afraid, the rest of the 2017 baseball season will be used for experimentation and examination for the future.
And, of course, for Joey Votto to show poise, drive and mastery under conditions that lead more to losing than winning.
ON THIS NIGHT THE Reds practiced their home run swings, banging four out of the park, including an early-game two-run home run by Votto and a late-game grand slam by Patrick Kivlehan, and the Reds registered an 11-3 victory.
Surprise, surprise. The Padres have given up 10 or more runs in a game 16 times, second in the league only to the Reds and 17 games of giving up more than 10.
WHEN THE NIGHT BEGAN, San Diego starter Jhoulys Chacin was 11-and-7, 5-and-0 over his last six starts. Cincinnati starter Tim Adleman was 6-and-9, 0-and-5 over his last six starts.
So, it was obvious who was going to win this one, right?
Baseball doesn’t work that way especially if you have Joey Votto swinging the bat for you with timely hit after timely hit and timely walk after timely walk.
Votto, as usual, was the lynchpin to the victory with early batwork that included two hits, a walk, two runs scored and three RBI, including a two-run home run.
Votto singled home a run in the first and cranked a two-run home in the third to give Adleman a three-run running start.
FOR VOTTO, IT WAS HOME RUN No. 30 this season, career number 251, tying him with Ted Kluszewski for fifth on the team’s all-time list and 136th in Great American Ball Park, the most by any player.
Kluszewski has a statue outside Great American Ball Park and when asked if tying a player of that stature meant anything, Votto said, “Yes, it means something.”
As one man said, “The guy is a hitting savant, an automaton.”
Votto’s career-best in home runs is 37. set in 2010, his MVP season. His next most was 29, done three times, including the last two season. Now he has 30 and is on pace for an all-time best.
“IT IS THE STYLE OF pitching and the strike zone,” said Votto, professor of hitting. “Over the last couple of years it has been documented that the strike zone has changed some, especially for a left handed hitter. The way hitters are pitched has changed over the last little bit, too. That pitching style leads to more fly balls. I can’t think of any other explanation.
“When I first came up, pitchers were pitching more down-and-away, more sinking and running fastballs,” he added. “I was getting more pitches down and away and that forced me to hit the ball to left field, over the shortstops head or in the gap and the other way for home runs.
“Now this has been documented, this is not anecdotal — once that all shifted a bit, more pitches called for strikes on the inner half and up in the strike zone, there are more attempts there by the pitcher which leads to more balls pulled in the air.”
Any questions as to why Votto is a hitting guru, a master of the swing?
ADLEMAN RETIRED THE FIRST nine in a row, nine Padres up, nine Padres down — a perfect game through three innings.
Then came the fourth and four straight hits that led to two San Diego runs, both runs coming on a two-run home run by Jose Pirela, the 13th straight game in which Adleman has given up at least one home run.
When he gave up a couple of hits in the fifth inning with two outs, he was removed, making him ineligible for a win because he didn’t finish five innings.
And it stayed 3-2 until the Reds came to bat and Chacin walked Votto to start the inning, the 11th time in 15 plate appearances Votto has been on base during this homestand.
Adam Duvall followed a walk to Votto in the sixth with his 25th home run and the Reds were up 5-2, then Zack Cozart smacked the team’s third homer with a two-run rip in the seventh for a 7-2 lead.
After Adleman left, Blake Wood, Michael Lorenzen (awarded the win) Wandy Peralta and Raisel Iglesias held the Padres to one run and four hits. The run was Jose Pirela’s second home run of the night, this one in the eighth off Peralta.
KIVLEHAN ENTERED THE game late as part of a double switch and hit the first pitch thrown by San Diego relief pitcher Carter Capps, called up Monday from the minors on his birthday. It was Capps, though, giving the gift — Kivlehan’s first career grand slam.
Kivlehan played most of last season at El Paso, San Diego’s Class AAA affiliate, “And we won the Pacific Coast League championship,” he said. “I played with about half those guys on the Padres, including Capps, so I knew him.”
REDS MANAGER BRYAN PRICE praised Kivlehan ultimately, saying he could be as good as Adam Duvall, given the opportunity, and that he could start for a lot of teams.
“Kivlehan has done more than I expected,” said Price. “Throw aside his batting average (.214) because he is in a very tough spot (mostly pinch-hitting). But he is multi-positional, defends above average and hits with power — he has been big. Given the opportunity he could be the next Adam Duvall-type player. He could have a run-producing impact with significant extra base hits, plus defense. That’s unfair because he hasn’t been given the opportunity the way Duvall was. He could be a really good every day player.”