CINCINNATI -- When your fans have stuck it out through a three-hour and 36-minute rain delay before the game even starts, and then watch a nearly four-hour game, the best thing a team can do is make it worth the wait.
The remnants of the 28,361 waterlogged fans at Great American Ball Park who let Mother's Day dinner go by the wayside can testify that it was. It was Joey Votto who made it so with a three home run game, but none was more important than the grand slam that had the Reds walking off with a dramatic 9-6 come-from-behind victory.
"That's why I enjoy what I am doing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Moments like this make up for all of the down moments. I don't play golf, but I've heard guys say that last shot of the day keeps you coming back that next time. A day like this will hopefully keep the fans coming back and keep us believing that we're never out of a ballgame."
Votto finished 4-for-5 with six RBIs and four runs scored. He notched his second career three-homer game, his second career grand slam and the third walk-off homer of his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Votto became the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit three homers and have one of them be a walk-off grand slam in the same game.
"That's as good of a day as you'll see outside of Josh Hamilton over there in Texas," said Baker, referring to Hamilton's four-homer, eight-RBI game last week.
The win kept the Reds above .500 at 17-16, and was the only real good thing to happen during the brief three-game home stand.
"We're a good team," Votto said. "I don't think we're a .500 team. I think we're better than that. These are the types of wins good teams get. This is not a special win. If you want to be a good team, you have to get these types of wins."
Now 10-1 on "getaway days" and 6-0 on Sundays, the Reds seemingly have pulled out several of those victories in some improbable ways. This Sunday was no different.
Cincinnati trailed, 6-3, heading into the bottom of the eighth and scored two runs off of reliever Sean Burnett, when Jay Bruce's seemingly routine fly ball to right fielder Bryce Harper was lost in the twilight sky. As the ball sailed over Harper's head, Drew Stubbs and Votto scored, and Bruce took second base with a double.Reds closer Sean Marshall pitched a two-hit, but scoreless, top of the ninth to keep the deficit at one run and get the victory.
Against Nationals closer Henry Rodriguez, Ryan Hanigan led off the bottom of the ninth with a single through the left side and moved to second on Wilson Valdez's perfect sacrifice bunt to the pitcher. There were two outs when Stubbs walked to put the potential go-ahead run on first base. Chris Heisey then got in an 0-2 count, but took four straight balls for a walk that loaded the bases for Votto.
"You just can't walk guys like that. You don't want Votto up there ever," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "[Rodriguez] walked the guys he should have gotten out."
Votto took a 98-mph first-pitch fastball for a ball and fouled back a 97-mph fastball. Rodriguez returned with an offspeed pitch in the dirt before Votto fouled off a 99-mph fastball for a second strike.On the 2-2 pitch that was a 96-mph fastball, Votto launched a no-doubt drive for the grand slam that ended the game. "Usually in those situations, I try my best to put the ball in play and make something happen," Votto said. "I took a couple of good swings, missed them and fouled them back. That last one, I tried to make a choice and shorten up. The ball ended up carrying out of the ballpark, which is not that typical when you're shortening up and trying to put the ball in play." Expectedly, Votto was mobbed by celebrating teammates upon reaching home plate.
"We've always said if we're on the field and the game is going on, we have a chance," Bruce said. "A bunch of guys came through big for us today, mainly Joey."
Votto's slam averted a three-game series sweep by Washington and a potential fourth one-run loss in the seven-game season series.
The two teams waited out the rain because this was the last time they were scheduled to meet in the regular season. Once it began, it didn't take Votto long to get things going.
Facing Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, Votto took a 1-0 pitch deep to left field in the first inning for a two-out homer and a 1-0 Reds lead. It was Votto's first long ball since April 30.
Jackson retired his next eight batters in a row as Washington took a 2-1 lead, before he encountered Votto for a second time. On a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning, Votto drove the ball an estimated 431 feet to center field to make it a 2-2 game, and give him his ninth career multi-homer performance.
Entering the day hitting .296, Votto has only recently started heating up, with an eight-game hitting streak in which he has gone 12-for-28 (.428)."Everybody is talking about how he is just treading water, and then all of a sudden he has a game like today," Stubbs said. "Not only did he hit three homers, he was not far from having five. Hopefully he's back to the same Joey that we're used to."
Votto hit a sixth-inning drive to the center field warning track, and also hit a one-out double to deep right field in the eighth.
"I've noticed some things," Votto said about his swing. "Teammates noticed some things. The video guy and hitting guy have noticed some things. We've talked about it, and I've tried to take that into my game and my practice. It's certainly been a work in progress, and it's been frustrating. I think I hit more barrels today than I have all season. To take it from practice to the game really reinforces why we work behind the scenes."