CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto hit a two-run, go-ahead homer, Nick Castellanos also connected and the Cincinnati Reds beat Cleveland 3-2 Monday night as the Indians played again without ill manager Terry Francona.
Sonny Gray shook off a tough start to the game to complete six strong innings, and Cincinnati ended a six-game home losing streak against their in-state rival.
Votto snapped an 0-for-11 skid when he followed Shogo Akiyama’s leadoff single in the sixth with a no-doubt shot off Zach Plesac (0-1). The 2010 NL MVP sat out a doubleheader Sunday after self-reporting coronavirus symptoms, but he was cleared to return to the lineup Monday and hit his third homer following a negative test.
“Yesterday was fun,” Votto said. “I came back to Cincinnati, was able to watch the game, was able to cheer on the team, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to be out there. … Just glad to be part of a win today.”
Votto followed Shogo Akiyama’s sixth-inning leadoff single by snapping an 0-for-11 slump with a no-doubt shot into the field seats off Zach Plesac (0-1), giving him three homers.
Vottos homer came on a full count after Plesac made six pickoff attempts.
“He lost a little concentration,” acting manager Sandy Alomar said. “He got a little pick happy. It happens sometimes. He’s got to focus more on the hitter. He did a pretty good job. If we score some runs, it’s a perfect outing.””
Votto relished the chance turn the game around for Gray.
“He competes,” Votto said. “He wants to win. He wants to be part of a winning team. I love playing behind him. I love playing besides him. He’s a very easy guy to play hard and want to do well with.”
Grounds crew seated behind first base cheered and played instruments — some provided by Votto — as he rounded the bases, and Votto pointed to the fan section after touching home plate.
Francona missed his second straight game and the first of four straight Reds-Indians games while dealing in Cleveland with a gastrointestinal condition not believed to be connected to COVID-19. First base and catching Alomar managed in Francona’s absence.
The series shifts on Wednesday to Cleveland for the final two games.
The Indians led 2-0 after two innings, scoring as many runs off Gray as they scored while losing three straight over the weekend in Minnesota.
Gray (3-0) gave up two hits in the first inning, including Francisco Lindor’s third home run of the season, a two-out line drive into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead.
Gray’s control problems led to Cleveland’s second-inning run. Oscar Mercado singled softly to center field, advanced to second on Gray’s errant pickoff throw and came around to score on two wild pitches.
“I was so upset with myself,” Gray said. “I came out with the wrong kind of energy. I told the guys pick me up, pick me up, pick me up. That was a team win, man. I’m so proud of those guys.”
Gray retired 12 straight batters before Lindor singled with one out in the fifth. He allowed four hits and two runs, one earned, with two walks and eight strikeouts.
“In starts like that when you’re not really on and battle through, it shows toughness,” Reds manager David Bell said.
Michael Lorenzen pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, Nate Jones struck out Lindor with two outs and the tying run at third in the eighth, and Raisel Iglesias pitched the ninth for the Reds’ first 2020 save.
Plesac extended his shutout streak to 11 innings over two starts this season before Castellanos lined a shot into the left-center seats for his fifth homer leading off the fourth inning. Plesac allowed four hits and three runs with one walk and six strikeouts in seven innings.
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