You can strike out Joey Votto once. And you can strike out Joey Votto twice. But more sooner than later, he is going to get you.
Atlanta Braves knuckleballer R. A. Dickey discovered that Friday night in sparkling and shiny new Sun Trust Park.
The Cincinnati Reds, behind nearly untouchable pitching by rookie Sal Romano, won the game, 5-3.
For five innings, though, Dickey’s dancing, fluttering, non-spinning knuckleball had the Reds mesmerized — no runs, four hits.
AND MATT ADAMS HOMERED off Romano in the second inning and the Braves led, 1-0, when the Reds came to bat in the sixth.
Dickey had struck out Votto the first two times Votto batted, only the 10th time this season Votto struck out twice.
Not the third time.
Votto led the sixth inning with a solid first-pitch single to right — and the can of worms was pried open.
The Reds proceeded to hit three home runs in the sixth after Votto’s hit. Adam Duvall homered for two runs. Eugenio Suarez homered and Jesse Winker made it back-to-back homers with a shot into the right field seats for a 4-1 lead.
Romano, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde pitcher all season, was on his best behavior Friday night. He stayed away from walks, controlled his fastball and cruised through seven innings. He gave up one run, five hits, walked two and struck out three.
He kept his pitches at knee level all night and the Braves kept pounding the ball on the ground for easy outs.
It became shaky for the Reds in the seventh when Kevin Shackelford replaced Romano with a 5-1 lead and gave up two runs.
He gave up back-to-back singles to Ender Inciarte and Brandon Phillips to open the inning. One run scored on a ground ball and another scored on a double by Tyler Flowers to make it 5-3.
When Shackelford walked Matt Adams, putting the potential tying run on base, manager Bryan Price brought in Blake Wood for what turned out to be a cameo appearance.
He attended Georgia Tech, just a bit south on I75, and if any of his friends were in the park they had to look fast to see him. Wood clamped the lid on the rally with one pitch, a fly ball to left field by Ozzie Albies.
It was a good thing for Votto that he extracted his pound of flesh from Dickey in the seventh because relief pitcher Arodys Vizcaino struck him out in the ninth. It was the first time since July of last season that Votto struck out three times in a game.
Closer Raisel Iglesias put the finishing trim on it in the ninth. He issued a one-out walk, but retired the final two. Former teammate Brandon Phillips had two hits, but made the final out of the game on a broken bat soft liner back to Iglesias.
Iglesias has 23 saves in 24 opportunities and the Reds are on a two-game winning streak