By Sam Bush

If yesterday’s season opener in Cincy is an example of what is in store for Phillies fans in 2016:

At least it will be exciting!

Zack Cozart had three hits and a tying sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, and Joey Votto followed with a bases-loaded single that sent the Reds to a 6-2 victory over the Phillies in an opener matching the majors’ worst teams last season.

The Reds scored five times in the eighth against the Phils’ work-in-progress bullpen. Jay Bruce completed the rally with a two-run single in front of 43,683 fans, the largest regular-season crowd in Great American Ball Park history.

Votto struck out in his first three at-bats. His one hit made up for everything else.

”That’s why I get the big bucks,” joked Votto, who got a $225 million contract extension that runs through 2023. ”I feel like it’s my obligation and I pride myself in going at-bat to at-bat. I try to get better with every at-bat.”

Votto’s day started with intrigue. He didn’t run onto the field when his name was announced during the traditional pre-opener player introductions. After the game, he said it was by design but wouldn’t say why.

”I’m still trying to figure out that caper,” manager Bryan Price said. ”I knew he was at the ballpark, just not where he was at that time.”

He went on the field with the rest of the players for warmups, fanned in his first three at-bats, and then delivered the winning hit.

Both teams plunged into a major rebuilding job last season, when the Phillies had the worst record in the majors at 63-99 and the Reds were only one game better. The Reds’ late rally gave them a pleasant start to the new season.

David Hernandez (0-1) came on for the bottom of the eighth trying to hold a 2-1 lead, but failed to retire a batter, giving up Scott Schebler’s pinch-hit double and a pair of walks. Cozart’s fly ball to right tied it. Votto singled off left-hander James Russell for a 4-2 lead. Bruce singled against Hector Neris during the nine-batter rally.

Ross Ohlendorf (1-0) got the win for fanning the only batter he faced.

Freddy Galvis hit a two-run homer, and Jeremy Hellickson allowed only three hits – all by Cozart – in six innings to keep the Phillies ahead until the eighth. Hellickson became only the ninth pitcher to fan Votto three times in a game.

”You don’t give him the same pitch twice,” Hellickson said. ”You mix it up as best you can.”

Manager Pete Mackanin had Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz in the starting lineup, in part because of sentimental reasons. Ruiz is expected to back up Cameron Rupp at catcher.

Howard’s error let in Cincinnati’s first run – he dropped Galvis’ throw from shortstop in the first inning.


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