The good news: most people don’t think Joey Votto — who leads baseball by a wide margin with 24 walks and a .526 on-base percentage — is really struggling.
The bad news: Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who has a large audience and is very persuasive, thinks Votto is struggling, according to Reds blog Red Reporter.
Veteran scribe Hal McCoy does his best to dissuade the struggling Votto narrative as well, quoting manager Dusty Baker while using some good old-fashioned logic.
The thing about Votto is that he still is on base more than half the time he goes to the plate, a .521 on-base average with 22 walks. It is difficult to hit when pitchers nibble at the plate, refusing to offer tantalizing pitches to hit.
“That’s what I used to do,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We’d get 18 hits and I’d get none, then we’d get six hits and I’d have four.”
ABOUT VOTTO’S batting average, Baker said, “I’m not really worried. It’s only 50 at bats (47, actually). It’s hard to explain. Everybody is going to have his turn and Joey will have his turn because water seeks its own level.
Votto also started the 2012 season slowly, carrying a .269 average with one homer and 14 walks through his team’s first 15 games. Over his next 75 games, he hit .348 before a knee injury relegated him to the disabled list.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.