- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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Happy Mother's Day?
But I'll throw in this: Happy baseball day.
Joey Votto and Giancarlo Stanton hit walk-off grand slams on a day where players wore pink wristbands or pink shoes or used pink bats to celebrate mothers everywhere for breast cancer awareness. Seeing the Reds and Marlins in those joyous home-plate celebrations reminds us that grown men making millions can still be boys, jumping around in unpretentious bliss, just like the days when mom drove them to Little League games.
Votto's grand slam into the grassy knoll in center field at The Great American Ball Park capped a three-homer day and should erase concerns about "What's wrong with Joey Votto?" Nothing was wrong, of course, even though Votto entered the day with just two home runs. He was hitting .296/.454/.491, leading the majors with 15 doubles and 31 walks. He simply hasn't been getting a lot of pitches to hit. Entering Sunday, fewer than 40 percent of the pitches he'd seen were in the strike zone. Votto is one of the most disciplined hitters in the majors and his chase percentage of 20.5 ranks among the best in baseball.
The Nationals challenged Votto on a wet, rain-delayed game in Cincinnati and showed why throwing him too many strikes can be a dangerous proposition. In the first inning, he hit a 1-0 fastball from Edwin Jackson six or seven deep into the left-field seats. In the fourth, he crushed a 3-2 changeup from Jackson over the 404 sign in dead center.
After the Nationals took a 6-3 lead, the Reds scored two runs in the eighth when Bryce Harper lost a Jay Bruce flyball in the dreary early evening gray sky. All that did was set up the dramatic bottom of the ninth, when Votto turned around a two-out, 2-2, 96-mph fastball from Henry Rodriguez to give the Reds a 9-6 victory.
Votto also doubled, and now his season line reads: .319/.466/.593, meaning he raised his slugging percentage 102 points in one day. What's wrong with Votto? Nothing.
Stanton gave the Marlins their own drama, after Heath Bell had pitched poorly yet again in blowing a 2-2 game in the top of the ninth. (Memo to Ozzie Guillen: Bell is unusable right now. How many games are you going to let him lose before he proves he can still get major league hitters out?)
Facing Frank Francisco, Emilio Bonifacio tripled, John Buck walked and Greg Dobbs singled in one run, forcing Mets manager Terry Collins to bring in Manny Acosta and leading Francisco to get ejected as he angrily confronted home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor. Jose Reyes hit a game-tying sac fly and Omar Infante popped out, but Acosta then walked Hanley Ramirez and hit Austin Kearns, to bring up Stanton.
Waving his pink bat, Stanton already had two base hits in the game. Marlins color guy Tommy Hutton had said earlier how Stanton was starting to spray the ball all over; that had helped him hit in 12 of 13 games entering Sunday, including four doubles and six home runs. But five of those home runs had come on the road.
Acosta knew he had to get ahead of Stanton. He fired a 95-mph heater at the knees, but it caught too much of the center of the plate. Stanton crushed it to left-center, 433 feet, just missing the art-deco monstrosity sculpture. It was the longest home run yet in the Marlins' new park.
For the Marlins, it was their fifth walk-off win at home and their fourth straight series win. After sitting 8-14 on April 30, the Marlins are 10-2 in May.
"That one was one of those no-doubters off the bat," Stanton said after the game. "First-pitch heater, right down the middle. I'm looking for a pitch that is going to get the heart of the plate." Stanton rounded the bases, flipped his helmet high in the air and joined the mob scene of his orange-clad teammates, where Logan Morrison lifted him high in the air, a bunch of boys celebrating a win.
Somewhere, their mothers smiled.