By Hal McCoy
When the initials J.V. were mentioned in regards to the Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman, it always came up Joey Votto.
No more. Right now it is Jason Vosler.
It isn’t that fans will forget Joey Votto. It is just out of sight, out of mind at the moment.
Votto is with the Class AAA Louisville Bats on rehab assignment and Vosler has stepped into his shoes and is wearing them proudly.
Vosler crushed an opposite-field three-run home run to left field Monday night in Great American Ball Park, the runs needed to overcome the Chicago Cubs, 7-6, the Reds’ third straight victory.
And Vosler didn’t even start this game. Because the Cubs started left-hander Drew Smyly, the left-handed Vosler was a dugout observer when the game began.
But when Jose Barrero singled and came up lame with a hamstring issue in the second inning, Vosler ran for him and stayed in the game at first base.
He struck out against Smyler in the fourth inning. Then he came to bat in the fifth with two on and two outs and the Reds trailing, 6-4.
This time he drove one into the left field seats, his second home run to go with a double and a triple in his first four games with the Reds.
It was a back-and-forth affair all night. The Cubs scored three in the top of the first off Reds starter Connor Overton, but the Reds scored three in the bottom of the first.
The Reds added a run in the second to take a 4-3 lead. The Cubs scored three in the top of the fifth and once again the Reds scored three in the bottom of the fifth on Vosler homer.
From there, the Reds bullpen once again put the clamps on it. Ian Gibaut, Alex Young, Fernando Cruz and Reimer Sanmartin kept the Cubs off the board for three innings on one hit and two walks.
Then it got interesting in the ninth. Closer Alexis Diaz was not availabile after pitching in the previous two games.
So closing time was handed to Derek Law and he quickly retired the first two Cubs. But Patrick Wisdom and Eric Hosmer singled, putting the potential tying and go=ahead runs on second and first.
Pinch-hitter Miles Mastrobuoni drilled a scorching line drive. Guess whos caught it to end the game?
He and shortstop Kevin Newman put on a Gold Glove defensive clinic in this game.
“Defense wins games,” said Vosler on a post-game interview with Bally Sports. “You have to play all four facets of the game, right? So just playing good defense behind good pitching and getting the runs we needed made for a great win.”
And getting the runs they needed came off Vosler’s bat.
“This has been a blast,” he said after his three-run blast. “Everybody’s been great. . .the clubhouse has been great, the fans have been great and with a 3-and-1 start I’ve definitely been pinching myself.”
If Votto had begun the season with the Reds, not gone on the injured list, it probably would be Vosler playing in Triple-A with Louisville. When Votto went to Louisville, Vosler was kept on the roster.
Of his home run, Vosler said “I thought I saw him (Smyly) good the at bat before (strikeout), but I wasn’t letting him get deep enough. So the next time, I told myself, ‘See him deep and drive the ball the other way and get a run in.’ Sometimes when that happens, they go out of the park.”
And Vosler was ecstatic his home run came against a left-handed pitcher.
“I want to prove I can hit those guya (left-handers),” he said. “Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to prove I can hit them. I’m simplifying my approach and just trying to go the other way.”
Overton gave up a single to Nico Hoerner and a single to Dansby Swason, who had three hits. Four pitches into the game and the Cubs had runners on second and first with no outs.
Overton struck out Reds-Killer Ian Happ. That brought up Cody Bellinger, a free agent the Cubs signed to a one-year $17.5 million contract.
He was 0 for 11 for the season, but rocketed a three-run home run into the right field bleachers.
The Reds quickly tied it in the bottom of the first on five straight singles by Jonathan India, Spencer Steer, Wil Myers, Tyler Stephenson and Kevin Newman. Myers drove in a run with his single and Newman drove in two with his single.
Cincinnati made it 4-3 in the second on Barrero’s single, TJ. Friedl’s bunt single and India’s fielder’s choice.
Chicago barged ahead, 6-4, with three in the fifth, punctuated by Hosmer’s two-run double up the right-center gap.
Then came the decider in the bottom of the fifth. Stepheson led with a single, Fairchild was nicked by a pitch and with two outs Vosler gave a happy fan a souvenir in the left field seats.
It was the first home run given up this season by the 1-and-3 Cubs.