When opening day officially began and the players were introduced one by one, trotting out of the dugout to their spot on the foul line, the Cincinnati Reds’ biggest name, Joey Votto, was nowhere to be found.
“I had no idea where he was,” teammate Jay Bruce said. “I just knew he’d be there when the game started.”
Indeed, there was Votto in his usual spot at first base. In the batter’s box, however, he was late to show as well. In his first three at-bats, Votto struck out each time. He came to bat again in the bottom of the eighth inning, bases loaded, game tied 2-2 with Philadelphia, the perfect spot on the perfect day.
There, right on cue, Votto lined a two-run single to centerfield that scored two runs in what turned out to be a five-run inning that propelled the Reds to a 6-2 victory over the Phillies before a crowd of 43,683, the largest in the history of Great American Ball Park.
“He’s been showing up like that here for a lot of years,” said Bruce, who followed Votto with a two-run single of his own.
“That’s why I get paid the big bucks,” joked Votto, although you could make a very good case it was not a joke.
And the Reds, the team that traded away several of its biggest stars — Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier — and was expected to be something of a joke this year, got the last laugh, at least for one game.
Zack Cozart, who missed most of last season after an ACL tear, stroked three hits and tied the game at 2-2 with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Raisel Iglesias, the Reds’ opening day starter, allowed two runs while striking out seven over six innings. The Reds’ bullpen did not allow a hit over the final three innings.
In the handshake line after the game, Holt said, ‘I told you I should be on this team.’
Reds manager Bryan Price on reserve outfielder Tyler Holt
Great ninth-inning defense helped the cause. Reserve outfielder Tyler Holt made a diving catch on the left field foul line for the first out. Centerfielder Billy Hamilton made a diving catch in right-center for the second. J.J. Hoover got Peter Bourjos to ground to Votto for the final out.
Who’s Tyler Holt? He’s a 27-year-old from Marion, Ind., who was claimed off waivers from the Indians near the end of last season. In spring training, Holt was optioned to Louisville before being recalled Sunday. After former Butler High School and University of Louisville star Adam Duvall walked to lead off the Cincinnati eighth, Holt entered as a pinch-runner, went to third on Scott Schebler’s double, then scored on Cozart’s shallow fly.
“I didn’t hit it good, but I knew Holt was on third and he has speed,” Cozart said. “He’s like a firecracker for us, scoring that run and making that play in the ninth.”
Reported Manager Bryan Price, “In the handshake line after the game, Holt said, ‘I told you I should be on this team.’”
OK, the Phillies were the worst team in baseball last season. Monday was one game in 162. Still, with Cozart and catcher Devin Mesoraco back in the lineup, with Bruce and Brandon Phillips still in Reds uniforms and with Votto being Votto, this team has a chance to surprise some people offensively.
“This could be the least important game of the season,” Bruce said, “but to come back and win this game the way we won it was great.”
Speaking of comebacks, just where was Votto before the game? He was in the ballpark, but was there a wardrobe malfunction? Was he detained unexpectedly? What in the heck was going on?
“I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of that caper,” Price said.
“I’ve done the LeBron (chalk toss) and the Ronaldo (goal celebration), so I thought I’d do the no-show,” Votto said with a sly smile before being asked if he was just indisposed at the time. “No, I meant to do it.”
Mystery, drama and a win to go 1-0. Not a bad way to start a season.
Phillies at Reds
7:10 p.m. Wednesday (Fox Sports Ohio)