Because the award hasn’t been given to a player on a last-place team in 28 years, Joey Votto might not be given enough serious consideration to win the NL MVP.
Nevertheless, Votto looks to continue arguably MLB’s best second-half performance Saturday when the Cincinnati Reds try to deny the visiting Milwaukee Brewers a fifth straight win in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
Votto, a four-time All-Star, probably won’t be the first player from a bottom-feeding club to win the NL MVP since Chicago’s Andre Dawson in 1987. Washington’s Bryce Harper and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt are among the top candidates.
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Since the All-Star break, however, Votto leads the majors with a .399 average, 59 walks and a .576 on-base percentage while ranking among MLB’s best in runs (39) and slugging percentage (.748).
The first baseman hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 7-4 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday that gave the Reds their first series win since July 28-30. It also capped a six-game trip in which he homered three times and reached base in 18 of 27 plate appearances.
"I’m starting to play up to a standard I’ve set for myself," Votto told MLB’s official website. "Hopefully, you get an opportunity to help the team win and do your part to feel like you’re supporting every win."
Votto went 6 for 10 with a homer as Cincinnati dropped two of three at Miller Park last week. He’s batting .306 with four home runs against Milwaukee (58-75) this season but is 3 for 22 at home.
Votto went 2 for 3 off Game 1 starter Matt Garza (6-14, 5.56 ERA) before homering in the ninth of last Saturday’s 12-9 win. Garza had been 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his previous four starts against Cincinnati (55-77) before allowing seven runs over 3 2-3 innings.
The right-hander will try to avoid becoming the first 15-game loser in the majors.
"I don’t think I can get any further down," he said. "This is already bottom. I just have to keep fighting and keep going. The worst thing I can do is quit and mentally check out."
Jay Bruce is batting .367 with three home runs in 30 at-bats against Garza, while Todd Frazier is hitting .316 with three homers in 19. Jason Bourgeois is 3 for 3 off him this season.
The Reds, who begin a 10-game homestand after Friday’s series opener was postponed, have hit .218 while dropping 11 of 12 at Great American Ball Park. They haven’t won two in a row at any venue since Aug. 12-13.
Milwaukee seeks its first five-game winning streak since an eight-game run June 28-July 5. Hernan Perez had three hits and Domingo Santana hit his fourth home run in Thursday’s 5-3 home win over Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Lucroy singled to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.
The Brewers have batted .343 while averaging 6.8 runs over the past five games. They’ll try to keep it going in the opener against rookie John Lamb, who is 0-3 with a 5.24 ERA in four starts since being acquired from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto deal.
The left-hander lost 4-1 at Milwaukee on Sunday, allowing two runs while striking out eight in six innings. He’s fanned 29 and walked five in 22 1-3 innings.
Cincinnati will start another rookie in the nightcap in Keyvius Sampson, who is 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in his last three starts.
The right-hander hopes to fare better than last Saturday when he gave up six runs over 3 2-3 innings. Scooter Gennett had three hits off Sampson (2-2, 6.43).
Milwaukee hands the ball to Wily Peralta (5-8, 4.30) in Game 2. He opposed Lamb last weekend and gave up one run over seven innings to improve to 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA in his last four starts.
Adam Lind is batting .457 with four home runs in his last 10 games against Cincinnati.