Votto shakes off hat trick, delivers in clutch

Reds star strikes out three times before hitting go-ahead single in eighth

Votto shakes off hat trick, delivers in clutch

CINCINNATI -- During pregame introductions Monday, Joey Votto was a mysterious no-show. Through his first three at-bats on Opening Day vs. the Phillies, the Reds' first baseman had three strikeouts.

But Votto came through when it mattered most in a 6-2 Reds win. It was his two-run single in the bottom of the eighth that provided the go-ahead runs.

"I knew he'd be there when the game started. That's all the matters," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "He's been there when it counted the most for a long time. I wasn't worried, that's for sure."

Votto had five three-strikeout games all of last season and hadn't struck out four times since 2009 -- something he's done three times in his entire career. Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson got the best of him throughout his start. The worst at-bat came when Votto struck out in the sixth after having a 3-0 count. He swung at a couple of pitches that could have been ball four.

Hellickson ends threat in 6th

None of those first three at-bats were on Votto's mind during his final one.

"That's why they pay me the big bucks," Votto said. "I have an obligation. That's something I pride myself in -- not taking at-bats to at-bats. I try to think of the season as one big at-bat. I'm trying to get better every single at-bat. The fact that I struggled the first three at-bats ... I learned from those and took it into that at-bat."

Redemption came in a 2-2 game in the eighth after Eugenio Suarez walked vs. James Russell to load the bases. On a 1-1 pitch, Votto lined a two-run single into center field.

"I'm human. I'm going to have my moments," Votto said. "You've got to train yourself to have a robotic side and just move on from things immediately. I've got to play defense. I've got to catch the ball. I've got to run the bases."

So where was Votto before the game, anyway?

"I still haven't solved that caper. I don't know," manager Bryan Price said. "I imagine it got to the point where -- he was going to feel a little uncomfortable jogging out there three minutes after he was introduced. I don't know where he was. Once I had visual contact with him, I said, 'OK, he's here.' I knew he was at the ballpark, I just didn't know exactly where he was when we were all standing on the line."

Votto indicated his absence from pregame introductions was intentional. During Spring Training, he showed some exuberance by imitating other sports superstars signature moves when he was introduced.

"I did the LeBron. I did the Ronaldo. So I figured Opening Day, I'd do the no-show," Votto said.

Votto definitely showed up on Opening Day. There was no doubt about that.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.