Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/14/12
People were grumbling. The Cincinnati Reds were stumbling and some fans, the ones who like big bangs out of a buck, laid the problem at the expensive spikes of Joey Votto.As fans sought shelter in the innards under the grandstand near the concession stands most of Sunday afternoon while rain delayed the start for 3 hours, one was heard to say, For 250 million, youd think wed get more than this.For 250 million, .296 with two home runs and 18 RBI wasnt enough. For 250 million a guy is epected to leap tall scoreboards in a single bound, be faster than a speeding baseball and be more powerful than Ted Kluszewski.For 250 million, a player is supposed to pick up his baseball team and personally carry it to the top of the standings and this .500 stuff just wont do.On Mothers Day, 2012, Joey Votto had one mother of a day, a day to make any 250 Million Man proud of himself.Not only did Votto hit three home runs against the Washington Nationals, he hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth when his Cincinnati Reds were one strike away from getting swept three games.And it was major-league history, witnessed in person by only about a thousand fans because most had gone to dinner with mother rather than dodge rain drops for 3 hours before the game got under way.It was the first time a player ever hit three home runs that included a walk-off grand slam home run.What makes it even more mind-rattling is that Votto was a hair and a tick away from hitting five home runs.He hit a solo home run in the first inning off Nats starter Edwin Jackson to left field.He hit a solo home run in the fourth inning off Jackson that bashed against the black party room behind a strip of grass in dead center.He hit a deep fly to center field in the sixth that reached the warning track, a ball hit Votto got under a tick too much.He drilled a double to right in the eighth that was hit hard enough to be a home run, but he got a smidge too much of the top half of the ball and it had too much top-spin.He came to bat in the ninth with two outs and a 2-2 count against Washington closer Henry Rodriguez, his team down, 6-5. The next pitch put Votto in the history books, a drive that narrowly cleared the center field wall and landed on the same grass on which his second home run landed The Joey Votto Grassy Knoll.Asked if he knew it was out of the park, Votto smiled and said, I thought it was going to hit a light tower and send sparks showering onto the field.Votto was kiddingly referring to the grand finale home run hit by Roy Hobbs of the New York Knights in the movie The Natural, a home run that shattered bulbs in a light tower, showering the field with sparks as Hobbs circled the bases.There were no shattered bulbs or sparks, but even Bernard Malamud, author of The Natural, didnt come up with a day like Votto just put together.Votto, the National League MVP in 2010, isnt one to call attention to himself, except with a baseball bat, and actually is much like the shy, quiet Roy Hobbs in The Natural.Afer his big day, he calmly went to a workout room to do his post-game routine and ritual, then walked into the shower to wash away the flow before he met with the media and calmly talked about what wrath he wrought upon the Nationals.Amazingly enough, on Saturday night Rodriguez finished off the Reds in the ninth inning, not only in 1-2-3 fashion, he struck out the side on 10 pitches nine strikes, one ball.When Rodriguez is throwing his pitches for strikes he is really difficult, said Votto. Ive had a difficult time with him before, but I got a couple of good pretty good pitches to hit (he fouled off two).Usually in those situations (two strikes), I just try to put the gall in play and make something happen, he added. I took a couple of good swings and fouled them back, then I shortened up my swing and the ball ended up carrying out of the ballpark, which is not that typical when you shorten up and just try to put the all in play.Manager Dusty Baker seemed more excited than Votto when he said, He ended the game with a slam, three home runs, six RBI thats as good a day as youll see outside of Josh Hamilton (four home runs, eight RBI in a game last week for the Texas Rangers).Votoo has been tinkering and tweaking his hitting mechanics and it all came together on this day.Im not saying this because I had a good day, but Ive noticed some things, teammates have noticed some things, and Ive taken those things into practice and games, he said. It has been a work in progress and been really frustrating. I probably hit more barrels today than I have all season.He couldnt have hit more barrels than if he drove recklessly through one of the myriad of construction sites populating I75 in Cincinnati.And for one day, even the most critical of fans had to walk away happy with what they saw from The 250 Million Man. Those numbers now are up to .319, five homers, 24 RBI.
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