CINCINNATI — Two different generations of Reds stars — Joey Votto and Elly De La Cruz — joined forces Friday night for a special game amid a special winning streak in what has all the makings of a season special for Cincinnati.
It took an 11-10 thriller in front of a raucous crowd of 43,086 fans at Great American Ball Park to defeat the Braves and extend the Reds’ winning streak to 12 games. Votto, 39, had a game-tying solo home run and a three-run home run.
21-year-old rookie De La Cruz managed to eclipse Votto’s effort by hitting for the cycle – something a Reds hitter hasn’t achieved in 34 years.
“It’s something special there,” said Reds second goal Jonathan India. “It’s a special time in Cincinnati and we’re enjoying every moment of it.”
Atlanta, which has the best record in the National League, came to Cincy with an eight-game winning streak. For the Reds to keep their streak alive and end the Braves’ wins, they had to bounce back from 5-0 and 7-5 deficits, then hold on after taking an 11-7 lead in the sixth inning and the looking down to 11-10 in the ninth.
“I think games like this really show you what’s possible and what we’re capable of,” Reds manager David Bell said.
A labored 43-pitch first inning by Reds starter Luke Weaver spotted all five runs for the Braves. Weaver was one strike away from limiting the damage to a point before Travis d’Arnaud hit a three-run homer to right center.
“There is no panic. We’re like, ‘OK, it’s still like 0-0,'” India said.
From the second inning, the Reds had an answer. De La Cruz smoked a 116.6 mph line off the right center field wall for a brace. Jake Fraley followed with a two-run homer to cut the deficit to three runs.
De La Cruz made it a one-run game when he threw a two-out, two-run homer to right field in the third inning.
Votto, who is four games away from returning from last season’s left shoulder surgery, completed the Reds’ first comeback effort with his tying homer to center field to lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“These heavyweight fights, I hope we can earn respect from other heavyweights and come back,” Votto said.
The Braves regained a two-run lead in the top of the fifth on Matt Olson’s two-run homer to left field from reliever Daniel Duarte. It didn’t last long.
Late in the fifth inning, De La Cruz’s third hit — an RBI broken-bat single to center field — made it a one-run game. Two batters later with two outs, Votto hit a 3-1 sweeper from Collin McHugh for a three-run homer to right center field.
“It’s a very good experience for me,” Votto said. “I don’t like getting ahead because it’s June. It’s been fun so far. I think we have really good potential. I think the average Reds fan at home has a team that they, their grandparents (and) their kids can have a great time watching. Because it’s a fun brand of baseball.”
In the sixth against Braves reliever Ben Heller, De La Cruz hit an RBI triple to right field to end the cycle – the first by a Red since Eric Davis on June 2, 1989 – and extend the Reds’ lead to 11- 7 .
De La Cruz didn’t feel like he had eclipsed Votto.
“No matter who does it in the game, we’re all united and that’s how we’re going to do it,” De La Cruz said via translator Jorge Merlos.
De La Cruz called it an honor to play with Votto.
“Because he’s just a legend of the game,” De La Cruz said. “I look up to him, he looks up to me back. He tells me that too. I mean, we just have these conversations over and over, how much we respect each other…”
“I didn’t say I looked up to you back,” Votto blurted from the back of the press conference room, prompting laughter. “But I do. I admire you.”
“I heard you say it,” De La Cruz replied, in English.
Votto struggled to think of another player to compare with De La Cruz.
“Was there a better type of strike, speed and power? The only lineup I can think of is Mickey Mantle – a young Mickey Mantle,” Votto said. “It’s unfair to put Elly, (comparing him to) possibly one of the greatest players of all. time. Elly has plenty of time to entertain fans.
“There is no comparison. I have no one to compare him to. There is no precedent that I have seen in my experience. How lucky are we in Cincinnati to have him?”