Reds’ Votto stays on homer roll

Indians manager’s lingering health issues end season

The Associated Press

The Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto, right, and Tyler Naquin watch Votto’s two-run home run during the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago.

The Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto, right, and Tyler Naquin watch Votto’s two-run home run during the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago.

AP photo

CHICAGO — Joey Votto set a Cincinnati Reds franchise record with another powerful show at Wrigley Field, while Kris Bryant was only a spectator in what might have been his last game with the Chicago Cubs.

It was the last game in a Cubs uniform for popular first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Votto went deep for a Reds-record sixth game in a row. That includes his six homers in the four-game series against the Cubs that Cincinnati wrapped up with a 7-4 win Thursday, the day before the MLB trade deadline.

“It’s cool,” Votto said. “I’m just glad we came out with wins and are playing good baseball. I just want to be a part of that.”

Like Bryant, Rizzo wasn’t in the Cubs lineup and never appeared in the game.

Moments after the final out, 2016 NL MVP Bryant was seen sitting on the bench in the Cubs dugout and staring out at the field that has been his home for all seven of his big league seasons. The 2015 NL rookie of the year was an All-Star for the fourth time this season.

While Bryant waited to see if he would be dealt, the New York Yankees acquired Rizzo and cash from the Cubs for two minor leaguers. The 31-year-old Rizzo had been a fixture at Wrigley Field for a decade, and with Bryant helped the Cubs break their long World Series drought with a championship in 2016.

Votto’s 20th homer of the season was a two-run shot in the first, when he hit a fastball from Alec Mills (4-4) into the center field bleachers. It was the eighth homer for the 37-year-old first baseman in his six-game streak for a record that dated back to 1900.

Chicago went ahead 3-2 lead before the Reds roughed up Mills in the sixth to go ahead to stay. After loading the bases with no outs, Tucker Barnhart drove in two runs on a soft groundball that went through the middle of the infield for a 4-3 lead.

“There’s some tough things laying, kind of heavy on our shoulders, over our heads,” Mills said, referring to the trade deadline. “We’re still trying to win ball games, we’re still at the end of the day, in the dugout doing what we can to win that day.”

The Reds have won five of their last seven games to stay in second place in the NL Central behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

“We have a great team that’s going to lead us into the latter half of the season and hopefully to a World Series as well,” winning pitcher Luis Castillo said.

Cincinnati added three runs off the Cubs bullpen in the seventh, with Kyle Farmer and Aristides Aquino each driving in a run and a Chicago error allowing a third to score.

The Cubs scored three runs off Castillo (5-10), who had only given up three runs total in his previous four starts. Patrick Wisdom hit his 16th home run in the fourth, and Wilson Contreras belted a two-run shot in the fifth.

Castillo finished with eight strikeouts in six innings, allowing seven hits.

Ian Happ hit a home run in the ninth off Reds reliever Heath Hembree.

Trading players

Reds: Traded RHP Ashton Goudeau to the Colorado Rockies for cash. The team added RHP Mychal Givens and optioned RHP Ryan Hendrix to Triple-A Louisville.

Cubs: Traded RHP Ryan Tepera to the Chicago White Sox for LHP Bailey Horn.

“I’m excited,” Tepera said. “It’s kind of a unique thing for a trade to happen between crosstown rivals. I’m excited. Obviously going to a first-place team, playoff contention, I’m looking forward to it.”

Francona stepping down

CLEVELAND — Terry Francona pushed his battered body to its absolute limit, doing even more damage.

He needs to give himself a break — and time to heal.

Cleveland’s popular manager is stepping down for the remainder of this season to address some lingering health issues, which have put his future leading a team and Hall of Fame career in jeopardy.

“I’ve got to get healthy or I can’t do this job,” Francona said Thursday.

The 62-year-old Francona has been wearing a boot on his right foot all season after undergoing toe surgery for a staph infection in February. The toe issue has exasperated his hip problem, which will require surgery.

Francona, who was only able to manage 14 games last season because of health reasons, will have his left hip replaced Monday at the Cleveland Clinic, and once he recovers from that procedure, he’ll have a rod inserted into his foot.

He’s agonized for weeks over his inability to manage the way he wants, and Francona said the decision to step down was difficult.

“It had gotten to the point where I didn’t feel like I was doing my job appropriately and I didn’t feel like I was being fair to the organization,” Francona said on a Zoom call. “But at the same time I almost didn’t feel like I was being fair to myself, either.”

Bench coach DeMarlo Hale will take over on an interim basis for the rest of this season while Francona focuses on his health. Third base coach Mike Sarbaugh will take Hale’s spot and assistant coach Kyle Hudson will move to third.

First base coach and former Indians All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar filled in for Francona a year ago.

Francona had deep, sometimes difficult conversations with team president and close friend Chris Antonetti before they mutually decided he needed to take a pause.

Francona’s issues have rendered him physically unable to do simple tasks, and he finally came to the realization he couldn’t go on.

“It’s been really hard,” he said. “I’ve had this internally battle on like, ‘Am I letting people down? Am I letting people down by staying? Am I being fair?’ It’s been beating me up. I admit that. Everything I do is hard, whether it’s getting to the airport or getting to the clubhouse. You’ve seen me taking pitchers out, that’s not even easy.

“It doesn’t make it very enjoyable and I miss that. All I do is go to the ballpark and then come home and get off my feet and lay in bed. And I got to give myself a a chance to have a little bit of a life.”

Antonetti marveled at Francona’s determination to push through the pain.

“I am in awe of Tito’s toughness and perseverance,” Antonetti said. “I know if it was me, I wouldn’t have been able to make it as far as Tito has with all the things he’s been dealing with. So I care for him.

“We talked about it a lot but in the end, I was going always leave that decision to Tito, and he would be the one to do it on his terms and on his time. The best way to answer it as a I said at the outset is that we arrived at this decision like so many others: together.”

Francona, a two-time World Series champion manager with the Boston Red Sox, dealt with serious health issues a year ago, when a gastrointestinal ailment — followed by blood clotting problems — led to spending an extended period in intensive care.

Francona is in his ninth season with Cleveland. He’s had a winning record each year and he’s just five wins from tying Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau (728) for the most wins in team history.

Francona led the Indians to the World Series in 2016, when the club lost in seven games to the Chicago Cubs. Cleveland hasn’t won the title since 1948 — baseball’s current longest drought.

The news on Francona continues a bumpy past week for the Indians, who have been overrun by injuries that have damaged their playoff hopes. Cleveland is 8 1/2 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.

On Thursday, the Indians traded second baseman Cesar Hernandez to the White Sox, a signal that they’ve turned their focus toward improving their roster for the future.

Earlier this week, Francona missed two games with a nasty head cold he picked up on a recent road trip. Also, the Indians recently announced they’re changing their name to Guardians in 2022, a decision that has angered some fans.

Following the announcement, Francona spoke passionately about his love for the organization. His father, Tito, played for the Indians from 1959-64.

For now, Francona has to leave them.

“Man, it’s difficult,” he said. “A big reason why it’s difficult is because I love what I do and I love where I do it. I love this place. When people talk about our organization, I want them to talk with pride, because that’s how I feel.

“I don’t want that to ever change.”

The Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto, right, and Tyler Naquin watch Votto’s two-run home run during the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago. Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto, right, and Tyler Naquin watch Votto’s two-run home run during the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Cubs in Chicago. AP photo
Indians manager’s lingering health issues end season

The Associated Press

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