Votto carries hot-hitting streak into second half

Reds slugger drove in three runs and homered in win vs. Braves

Votto carries hot-hitting streak into second half

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto's incredible second half in 2015 might be poised for a 2016 sequel. The Reds' first baseman has demonstrated again that he looms large in the lineup when he's on a tear.

In the Reds' 8-2 victory over the Braves on Monday, Votto was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer, a walk and RBI single. He is 8-for-15 in four games since the All-Star break.

"He looks very much like the player that performed at such a ridiculously high level in the second half [last year]," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

After the All-Star break last season, Votto led the Majors in hitting (.362) and on-base percentage (.535) and rallied so well from a middling first half that he finished third in the National League MVP vote.

This year, Votto actually didn't wait for the All-Star break to heat up. Since June 1, he's batting .336 with six homers and 14 RBIs to raise his average from .213 to a line of .265/.395/.463 for the season with 15 homers and 45 RBIs.

"Early in the season, I really struggled just hitting a fastball into play," Votto said. "That was something that needed to be corrected. You can't play in this league without hitting a fastball. That's probably step one and you go from there."

Votto's RBI single

According to PITCHf/x data, Votto batted .273 with a .289 average on balls in play when he got a four-seam fastball from April 4-May 31. Entering the night since June 1, he was hitting those pitches at a .346 average, with a .405 batting average on balls in play. But he's also hitting almost all other pitches -- namely the changeup that went from an .083 average before June 1 to .467 after.

Pitchers had more success busting pitches inside on Votto during his struggles. He batted .207 on inside pitches before June 1 and came in batting .292 since.

"I think you have to accept every challenge that comes your way in this game, make the adjustments and constantly adapt as a player," Votto said.

Against Atlanta with Billy Hamilton on third base following a balk and a stolen base, Votto scorched a 2-2 fastball from Matt Wisler for a two-run homer to right field. It came during a five-run bottom of the fourth inning. According to Statcast™, the ball left the bat at 103 mph and traveled 395 feet. It was Votto's first homer since June 30.

In the seventh inning, Votto hit an Eric O'Flaherty 91-mph sinker for a RBI single that scored Hamilton.

"[He is] able to play the game without the frustration that goes with anybody that goes through an early struggle, especially when you're as accomplished as Joey is," Price said. "There's certainly an expectation and a warranted one. For me, it's a relief to see him go out there and really enjoy playing baseball and getting the results that he's worked so hard to attain."

Votto deferred when asked if there were similarities to be drawn with how he's doing now compared to the second half of '15.

"I don't know," he said. "I've had seasons where I've started off really well and seasons where I've started poorly and everything in between. My objective is to get better as a player, take it out there to the field and constantly make adjustments and hedge against my ever-diminishing skills."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.