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Rookies Votto, Shearn shine in win

Rookies Votto, Shearn shine in win

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto's first big league home run for the Reds seemed to come with a mental checklist while rounding the bases.

"Don't smile, put your head down and run hard and touch home plate," were thoughts on the first baseman's mind. "From third to home, I was thinking about what they'd do to me on the bench. Are they going to shake my hand, give me high-fives or ignore me?"

It'd be hard to really ignore Votto, who reached safely on all four plate appearances in his first Major League start during the Reds' 7-0 win over the Mets on Wednesday. His 421-foot long ball in the second inning, off Mets starter John Maine, bounced off the batter's eye in center field for a solo homer that gave Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.

"Carlos Beltran was in center field, gave it a look and just stopped," Votto said. "After that, I was like 'Oh man, I got myself one.'"

Votto was the third Reds rookie to homer for his first big league hit this season, joining Josh Hamilton and Ryan Jorgensen. The 23-year-old Votto, one of the Reds' elite prospects, was a September callup from Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday.

"I hope Joey doesn't think it's going to be that easy," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Or maybe it is going to be that easy. That'd be nice. He certainly made a nice debut in his first start."

Ignoring rookies after their first homer is one of the oldest tricks in pro baseball. Sure enough, Votto returned to the bench to find teammates standing quietly and trying to act like nothing happened.

Wait for it, wait for it ...

"I walked past them and they all started smacking my head," Votto said.

Votto cleared rookie prank No. 1, but he wasn't prepared for the next one out of the veteran playbook after his home run ball was retrieved.

"[Infielder] Juan Castro took it and threw it in the stands," Votto said. "Then they told me afterwards it wasn't really the ball."

Gotcha.

The Reds could finally afford some yucks in the dugout as they snapped a five-game losing streak. They had also dropped seven of the previous nine games.

Brandon Phillips gave the Reds a 2-0 first-inning lead with a two-run homer to right field against Maine (14-9). It was Phillips' 28th homer, which broke Hall of Famer Joe Morgan's 1976 team record for most homers in a season by a second baseman.

"I've been pleasantly surprised at how good Brandon Phillips is," Mackanin said. "He's done everything extremely well. To have that kind of power and that skill defensively as well as foot speed and the ability to hit with two strikes? He's a complete player. The sky's the limit for that guy."

Hamilton's two-run single in the fourth made it a 5-0 game and eased the burden on 30-year-old rookie pitcher Tom Shearn (2-0). The right-hander worked six scoreless innings in his third big league start and allowed three hits -- all singles -- and three walks with three strikeouts.

The Reds' bullpen trio of Marcus McBeth, Jared Burton and Mike Stanton provided the final three scoreless -- and hitless -- innings.

"I was a little mad at myself because I kept falling behind all the hitters," Shearn said. "But I just tried to make good pitches when I had to. The offense is coming through early for me. It took some of the load off my back and [I could] just go out there and try to pitch."

No New York baserunner got beyond second base all day in what was the first-place Mets' fourth shutout all season. Votto played a part in that feat defensively when he threw out Beltran trying to go from first to third on a groundout in the top of the second.

"That was the thing that broke my nervousness," Votto said. "The first play I got out of the way, a big deep breath. Right after that play, I caught a pop fly. I know those are little plays to you guys, but I made those two plays and thought, 'Oh my goodness, I'm part of this game. Here we go.'"

Votto's long ball came the following half-inning. He walked and scored on Hamilton's hit in the fourth inning, and in the fifth, the left-handed hitter handled lefty pitcher Willie Collazo with a single to left field. Another single, also to left field off Philip Humber, followed in the seventh.

"Oh man, what a day. It felt great," Votto said.

Votto made his big league debut on Tuesday and struck out as a pinch-hitter against reliever Guillermo Mota.

"Last night really relaxed me," said Votto, who had 22 homers and 92 RBIs for Louisville this season.

Mackanin, who batted Votto eighth, plans to get as much of a look at the prospect as possible in the season's final month.

"You don't want to judge a guy on one day," Mackanin said. "He certainly made a great impression. First impressions are certainly lasting."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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