Phillips broke the Reds’ single-season record for homers by a second baseman Wednesday, hitting a two-run shot during a 7-0 victory that ended the New York Mets’ five-game winning streak.
Phillips’ 28th homer in the first inning off John Maine (14-9) surpassed Hall of Famer Joe Morgan’s previous club mark. Phillips also homered in his last at-bat on Tuesday night, when he learned for the first time about Morgan’s record.
“It’s an honor,” Phillips said. “I can’t say that was on my mind. He is a great player, a Hall of Famer. I have a lot of respect for him.”
The Mets got mixed news after the game. First baseman Carlos Delgado is expected to be sidelined for a week to 10 days after tests showed he strained muscles in his right hip on a swing Tuesday night. But the NL East leaders remained five games ahead of second-place Philadelphia when Atlanta rallied past the Phillies 9-8.
Tom Shearn (2-0), a 30-year-old rookie still relishing his first call-up to the big leagues, gave up three hits in six innings to a Mets lineup missing five regulars. New York managed only three hits overall and didn’t get a runner past second base.
Top prospect Joey Votto also homered for his first major league hit, helping the Reds emerge from a five-game losing streak that ended all talk of them sneaking back into contention in September.
The Mets got swept in a four-game series in Philadelphia last week, letting the Phillies pull within two games. Instead of getting tight, the Mets got on their best run of the season.
“Now we’re coming back to our place and we’ve got a shot,” Maine said.
They won five in a row before their loss Wednesday, putting themselves back in control. The Mets’ best winning streak of the season was the result of a top-to-bottom offensive splurge—46 runs over a six-game span.
“I’m proud of the boys for finishing the way they did,” manager Willie Randolph said. “It would have been easy to give in with the way things started (in Philadelphia), but they showed a lot of heart and character. We’ll take a definite positive from that.”
After nearly a week of New York running the bases nonstop, Randolph decided to give some of his regulars a day off. Moises Alou, Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca and Jose Reyes were out of the starting lineup for a day game following a night game.
The Reds enjoyed a victory that featured Phillips’ noteworthy homer and good showings by two players right out of the minors—an up-and-coming prospect and a thirtysomething pitcher who fretted that he’d never get this far.
Votto’s first homer was a hint of things to come. The 23-year-old first baseman is the Reds’ top hitting prospect, winning the Southern League’s MVP last year. He hit a solo homer off the facing of the batter’s eye in center field in the second inning, humbly rounding the bases while looking at the ground.
Teammates ignored him in the dugout, a traditional hazing for a first homer. Votto grinned as he walked past them, then was surrounded for congratulations.
“Oh, man, what a great day,” said Votto, who also had a pair of singles.
Interim manager Pete Mackanin batted Votto eighth to take the pressure off. It turned out to be a good move.
“First of all, I hope Joey Votto doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy,” Mackanin said. “Or, maybe it will be that easy.”
Edwin Encarnacion also had three hits and drove in a pair of runs, helping Shearn get another serendipitous victory. The right-hander spent 12 years in the minors—one of them recovering from elbow surgery—and was living in the groundskeeper’s camper at Triple-A Louisville when he got his long-awaited promotion on Aug. 26.
Shearn was glad to see the Mets resting much of a lineup that scored 21 runs and hit six homers in the first two games of the series.
“Especially a day game after a night game, I was hoping their bats would be a little slow,” Shearn said. “When I saw that lineup they had out there last night, I was hoping some of those guys would get the day off.”
Maine lasted only 4 1-3 innings, his second-shortest start of the season. He gave up nine hits and six runs. … Votto’s homer came in his second major league at-bat. He pinch-hit on Tuesday night and struck out. … Votto is the third Reds player to homer for his first big league hit this season. OF Josh Hamilton and C Ryan Jorgensen also did it. … Morgan hit 27 homers in 1976, when the Big Red Machine won its second straight World Series title.