Andrew Suarez is a lefty reliever, a man who just so happens to be celebrating a birthday today. The final day of his 30th year probably could have gone a little bit better for him, however.
In the 7th inning of yesterday’s game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, Suarez entered in relief of Andre Pallante and efforted to retire the Reds promptly so as to maybe, maybe allow for the Cardinals to dig out of the 5-1 hole in which they resided. TJ Friedl greeted him with a solo homer, however, but after firing 21 pitches to get through the rest of the inning unscathed, St. Louis opted to send Suarez back to the mound to begin the Bottom of the 8th, too.
There was a lefty waiting for him in the batter’s box, after all. A lefty who, in theory, wasn’t quite as proficient in hitting southpaws as he once was.
One pitch came in as a ball, another crossed the plate as a strike, and the 3rd pitch hurled by Suarez to that lefty came in the form of a hanging breaking ball that caught a little too much of the plate. The old lefty at the plate was far from fooled and unloaded on the meatball, parking it 437 feet away deep into the moon deck beyond the RF wall at GABP.
His back probably hurts this morning. Not because of that swing, or any other swing he made yesterday - it probably hurts because he’s 40 years old, and frankly, your back just hurts in the morning.
Turning 40 with a massive homer on the day he returned to the Reds lineup from the injured list might not go into Joey Votto’s trophy case of memories, but it sure will resonate in my own mind for quite awhile. Votto’s blast yesterday, by the way, was his 4th homer off a LHP so far this season, a season in which he’s now dominating lefties (.889 OPS in 48 PA) much more than he is righties (.738 OPS in 151 PA).
It’s a throwback to see that, really. From 2010 through 2017, there were 125 left-handed hitters who logged at least 300 PA against LHP, and Votto’s .398 wOBA against them was the single best mark of them all. He lapped the field in that regard, with Corey Seager and Charlie Blackmon tied for next best at a distant .353 mark. His .398 mark against southpaws ranked tied with Nolan Arenado for the 15th best regardless of which side of the plate batters hit, ranking just Kris Bryant and Mike Trout (both at .400).
The Reds are off today before embarking on their penultimate road trip of the season, a season that - per his contract - may well be the ultimate one of Votto’s tenure as a Red. Six games in Detroit and New York await before the Reds return home to host the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates in a homestand that may well be Votto’s last one in the uniform. Cleveland and St. Louis will follow that defense of GABP, and should the Reds not scratch and claw their way back into the final Wild Card spot, that’s all that remains for what’s been a Hall of Fame career for Votto in Cincinnati.
Twenty days. Less than three weeks. A sample size small enough to make that 48 PA one of him against LHP so far this season seem ample. As his official age rounds up and he tries again to shrug off the shoulder issue that sure still plagues him daily, we’ll get to see if he’s got the kind of magic within to write one final chapter for us to file.
He’s now a single run scored behind Mark McGwire on the all-time list, just two behind Hall of Famer Chuck Klein. He passed Hall of Famer Mike Piazza on the all-time hit list yesterday, and he’s now just a pair of dingers behind Hall of Famer Yogi Berra on that all-time list. Not that needs any of that as additional motivation to keep the long-balls a-coming, but each and every swing he makes these days continues to launch his name up and up into more rarified air. In doing so, he’s cementing a reality that we’ve known around these parts for a long, long time already:
He’s the greatest offensive player anyone my age has ever seen play for the Cincinnati Reds.
And I’m old. We’re old.