CINCINNATI — Joey Votto just went berserk.

The Reds star erupted after a called strike and got ejected, with teammates and even an umpire needing to hold him back Wednesday night in Cincinnati’s 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Votto was tossed by plate umpire Bill Welke while the Reds were trying to rally in the eighth. The 2010 NL MVP slammed down his batting helmet after strike two, hollering and gesturing as he went nose-to-nose with Welke.

“”My understanding is that Joey asked for time and Welke didn’t grant it,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “That’s what got it started.”

“I know that Joey looked over to the dugout and that’s my sign to get out there. He was already ejected before I could get there. Our argument is that if someone asks for time he should get it. Joey handled the situation professionally until he got upset,” he said. “You can argue about how you act when you’re upset. Joey was upset. Bill was upset. I was upset. There were a lot of upset people out there.”

The dispute quickly escalated and Reds teammates intervened to restrain Votto, with first base umpire Laz Diaz helping prevent the big hitter from reaching Welke. Price also was ejected.

Votto had left the clubhouse when reporters arrived after the game. Welke declined comment.

Jung Ho Kang hit Pittsburgh’s first grand slam of the season, a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning. The Pirates hold the top spot in the NL wild-card race.

“We were going in on Kang all night and he hadn’t caught up with it yet. We kept the same game plan. I was trying to put it on the black but it was over the plate. Anyone can hit that. I have to execute my pitches better,” Reds starter Keyvius Sampson said.

J.A. Happ (5-1) struck out a season-high 10. He won his fifth straight start, pitching into the seventh inning and giving up three hits.

Five of the strikeouts were called third strikes, including Votto’s first inning strikeout which didn’t exactly endear Welke to the Reds slugger.

Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his major league-leading 44th save.

Sampson (2-4) took the loss.

Votto was ejected for the third time this season after the Reds had scored once in the eighth to make it 5-3. There were runners on first and second with one out at the time, and Ramon Cabrera batted for Votto and singled for his first major league hit.

It was 1-all when Gregory Polanco led off the Pittsburgh sixth with a single and stole second. Andrew McCutchen drew a one-out walk and Aramis Ramirez loaded the bases with a sharp single.

Kang’s homer was the seventh allowed by Cincinnati this season.

“It was my decision to let Keyvius face Kang. I’ll own it,” Price said.

McCutchen had a sacrifice fly in the first.

Todd Frazier hit his 31st homer in the second. It was his sixth since he won the All-Star Home Run Derby. He added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.


Pirates: RHP A.J. Burnett will be reinstated from the disabled list in time to start the opener of a four-game series against Milwaukee at PNC Park. He has been sidelined since July 31 with elbow inflammation.

Reds: INF/OF Kris Negron will need season-ending surgery to repair a shoulder injury he suffered while making a diving backhanded catch in left field on Tuesday in his first game since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville. “At least it was on a sweet play,” Negron said.


Pirates: Pittsburgh opens an eight-game home stand with four games against the Brewers, who swept a three-game series against the Pirates in Milwaukee earlier this month. RHP A.J. Burnett (8-5, 3.06) is scheduled to make his first start since July 30, the day before he went on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.

Reds: Rookie RHP John Lamb (0-3, 6.11) makes his first career appearance against St. Louis in the opener of a four-game series.


Votto was ejected on May 6 in Pittsburgh and served a one-game suspension for bumping umpire Chris Conroy. Price was ejected for the third time also, including one before the start of a game in Cleveland on May 23.

Gary Schatz, The Associated Press