Toronto’s Joey Votto homers in Reds win over Blue Jays, avoiding sweep

Canadian Joey Votto has made another smash return to his hometown.

The Cincinnati Reds first baseman smashed an eighth-inning home run off the right-field foul post to give the visiting Reds a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

With the game tied at 2-2, Votto, 38, of Toronto, hit a 2-0 curveball with one out on the line against Blue Jays right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia (0-3).

“Of course it’s great to be back here,” Votto said. “Playing in this city means a lot to me, but I’m determined to play this well whether it’s here or elsewhere.”

The first two months were difficult for Votto. The explosion was his first of the year. The six-time star player was activated from the COVID-19 injured list ahead of the series opener on Friday.

“I thought I would be more nervous, but I didn’t feel like that,” he said. “I just felt more joy. I felt more satisfaction coming back here and being able to see the family and being able to perform well.

“Whether in this city or another, I missed the opportunity to play well.”

He finished the series 3 for 11 with a first-run walk in the final. Votto had 12 career visits to Toronto and had 11 hits in 44 plate appearances, including four homers.

Toronto (22-19) was aiming for its first series sweep of the season before 42,323 at the Rogers Center against the bottom-placed Reds (12-28).

“I couldn’t be happier for him, not just as a player but as a person,” Reds manager Dave Bell said. “I know how important it is for him to do good things here in his hometown.”

The Blue Jays are one win away from the 23-18 mark they set in the first quarter last season.

“The good thing is we’ve won games without our offense being where it was supposed to be,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi struggled in the first. He faced eight batters and threw 37 pitches as Cincinnati took a 2-0 lead.

Kikuchi walked three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases. Aristides Aquino then hit a two-out double down the left field line.

Kikuchi 7 fans in short release

Kikuchi set up to retire 10 straight until Reds receiver Aramis Garcia led the fifth with a single to left field.

“That first run, I couldn’t find a good rhythm,” Kikuchi said. “I just couldn’t get into a good rhythm with a good tempo, but in the second run I was able to get my rhythm back, felt a lot looser and was able to calm down a bit.”

The Blue Jays starter went 4 1/3 innings, struck out seven, walked three and allowed two hits.

Toronto went 2-1 in the second on a brace from Santiago Espinal and a single to right field from Matt Chapman.

The Blue Jays tied the game in the third. A pitch hit George Springer on his left elbow. He moved to second on wild pitch and took third base on Vladimir Guerrero’s long ball to center.

Springer scored on Bo Bichette’s ground ball to Cincinnati shortstop Kyle Farmer.

Cincinnati starter Graham Ashcraft made his major league debut, lasting 4 1/3 innings. He gave up two runs on four hits, walked two, struck out three and threw a wild pitch and hit Springer.

The Reds’ closest, Art Warren, took advantage of a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his second save. Cincinnati reliever Alexis Diaz (2-0) picked up the win for his two innings of work.

The Santiago sequence

Espinal’s second-inning brace extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest active streak in MLB.

In his impressive run, the Blue Jays second baseman went 19 for 52 (.365).

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