Joey Votto hit a solo homer in the second inning and a two-run triple in the third inning in the Cincinnati Reds’ 4-3 win on Wednesday, but it was a four-pitch walk in the eighth inning that drew the most fireworks.
The first pitch of Votto’s eighth inning at-bat was an up-and-in fastball from Chicago Cubs reliever Rowan Wick. After three more pitches missed the strike zone, Votto spun his bat into the grass and began jogging to first base.
Wick said something to Votto after the walk with colorful language – “All I said was ‘nice bat flip,’ ” Wick told reporters – and that didn’t fly with Votto, who continued the conversation from first base. Votto barked at Wick for about 10 seconds as Wick stared at the catcher from the pitching rubber.
“If someone says something to me, sometimes I don’t answer, but I wasn’t in the mood to keep my mouth shut,” Votto said.
Members of the Cubs’ dugout shouted at Votto, causing Wick to step off the rubber. Home-plate umpire Dan Merzel took off his mask and turned to the Cubs to yell, “Hey, knock it off. No more. No more.”
Votto, who was animated in his jawing with Wick and the Cubs’ dugout, told the Cubs to keep quiet.
“It’s part of the game,” Votto said. “It can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, you know, competing, some talk. I really enjoy that part of the game. Sometimes, it can be overextended, and it can be taken too far, but generally speaking, I enjoy that part as long as the other party is fine with taking it.
“You give it to me, no problem. I’ll give it back, you know.”
Things didn’t continue between Votto and Wick after Mike Moustakas grounded into a fielder’s choice on the next pitch and Votto was out at second base.
“I understand he’s been in the league a long time, and he can do whatever he wants when he walks,” Wick said. “On my side, I was not happy at all with the pitches that I threw. I let the emotions get the best of me. I got a little frustrated. But I feel like he kind of blew it out of the water more than it needed to be.”
Said Votto: “He had something to say and I answered. That’s how ball is sometimes. You’re competitive and, clearly, he was competing and locked in on performing well. I’m pulling on the opposite end of the same rope.”
With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Reds reliever Hunter Strickland hit Patrick Wisdom with a 96-mph fastball on the first pitch of their at-bat. Wisdom, as expected, wasn’t happy about it. Cubs manager David Ross walked out of the dugout to argue with Merzel and was promptly ejected.
Ross said he wasn’t sure why umpires didn’t confer with each other about whether it was intentional and potentially issue warnings. He continued a long argument with crew chief Chris Conroy, drawing a standing ovation from the Cubs fans in the crowd of 11,417.
“The courtesy of the respect of players to see if it’s on purpose on my players, which I don’t know whether it was or not,” Ross said, “but them not getting together – two (umpires) wanting to get together and another (umpire) not wanting them to get together was the frustrating part for me.”
Votto was adamant that Strickland’s pitch wasn’t intentional.
“You don’t put the tying run at the plate with one out,” Votto said. “That was absolutely unintentional. We’re trying to win a baseball game and our closer is coming and he just misfires a ball. We don’t get paid for retribution. We get paid to complete games and to perform well. The idea that he did that on purpose, in the ninth inning, with two runs … what? You know, people have every right to think what they think, but it couldn’t have been less intentional. They may not accept that. Hey, it’s fine. No problem. We’ll keep playing.”
Wick said he was unsure if Strickland intentionally hit Wisdom. “Maybe it appeared that way. Don’t know. See what happens (Thursday),” he said.
Strickland, who earned his first save of the season, maintained he wasn’t intentionally throwing at Wisdom with a two-run lead in the ninth inning.
“That’s not ideal, obviously,” Strickland said. “Every win is pretty important to us right now. To go out there and just give guys free bases is not ever the intention by any means.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Rossy. He’s going out there and protecting his team and standing up for them. Nothing but respect there.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joey Votto gets in heated exchange with Rowan Wick in Reds vs. Cubs