Joey Votto, playing through sore knee, swats 2 HR to help Reds stay in playoff race

Joey Votto homered twice and drove in four runs, and the Cincinnati Reds pounded the Pittsburgh Pirates 13-1 on Wednesday to stay alive in the race for the second National League wild card.

Nick Castellanos, rookie Jonathan India and Eugenio Suarez also connected as Cincinnati (82-75) posted its fourth straight victory, clinching a second straight winning season.

“I’d be lying if I said Nick and I weren’t competing. Competition is in our nature. When he drives in runs it doesn’t affect me. I still have my chances,” said the Toronto-born Votto, who grew up in nearby Etobicoke, Ont. “I’m taking more chances and with that comes more outs, but I knew I could hit more home runs and drive in more runs.”

The Reds pulled within 5 1/2 games of idle St. Louis for the second wild card. The Cardinals (87-69) need just one more win to secure the spot.

“It is tough to see anything when your overall goal is to make the postseason,” manager David Bell said of the team’s winning record. “Maybe when it’s all over we can enjoy the winning season.”

The 38-year-old Votto made a successful return to the lineup after missing two games with a sore left knee.

The first baseman hit a two-run shot off Connor Overton (0-1) during the Reds’ four-run first inning, and then connected for another two-run drive against Cody Ponce in the fourth.

The six-time all-star has 35 homers and 96 RBI in his best season since he nearly won a second NL MVP award in 2017.

“I could have hit 50 home runs in my prime, but I didn’t think it was as productive for the team,” Votto said. “I wanted to do what Juan Soto is doing, get on base a lot with a high average.”

It’s the first winning record for Cincinnati in a 162-game season since it went 90-72 in 2013. The Reds went 31-29 in the 60-game 2020 season.

Cincinnati travels to Chicago for a two-game series against the American League Central champion White Sox, starting Tuesday.

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