NEW YORK – Joey Votto could not have come any closer.
The star slugger fell inches short of matching the major league record with a home run in eight consecutive games, but Javier Báez did clear the fence in his New York debut and the Mets rallied past the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 in 10 innings Saturday night.
With the Mets down to their final strike, Dominic Smith hit a tying single off Sean Doolittle in the ninth. Brandon Drury opened the bottom of the 10th with an RBI single against Luis Cessa (3-2), driving in automatic runner Kevin Pillar from second base to win it.
Votto, riding a seven-game homer streak, laced a line drive that hit the orange padding atop the right-field wall in the eighth and bounced back into play — mere inches from sailing over near the 370-foot sign.
“Good swing,” Votto said. “I had a great time during this stretch because we played so well as a unit.”
A foot higher and Votto would have tied Dale Long (1956 Pittsburgh Pirates), Don Mattingly (1987 New York Yankees) and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (1993 Seattle Mariners), the only players to homer in eight straight games.
“It's been special and I've enjoyed it,” said the 37-year-old Votto, a six-time All-Star and the 2010 NL MVP. “I'll probably never do it again."
The ball was hit so hard, Votto settled for a single that put runners at the corners with none out.
But then Seth Lugo struck out the next two batters and left-hander Aaron Loup picked off Votto at first base, leading to Kyle Farmer getting tagged out in a rundown between third and home.
“Joey thought he had a really good read,” Reds manager David Bell said.
Cincinnati had another great chance in the 10th with runners at the corners and nobody out before Edwin Díaz (4-4) fanned Farmer and then whiffed Votto with a 99 mph fastball above the strike zone.
Tyler Naquin lined out to center field, and a fired-up Díaz headed for the dugout.
Farmer hit a solo homer and Eugenio Suárez had a three-run shot as the Reds built a 4-1 lead against 41-year-old lefty Rich Hill, who went five innings in his second start for the Mets since being traded from Tampa Bay.
Báez’s two-run homer in the sixth energized the Citi Field crowd of 26,477 and pulled New York within one.
“Clutch situations for Javy, he’s built for things like that. All the adrenaline,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.
The two-time All-Star launched a 1-2 cutter from starter Wade Miley to left field for his 23rd homer of the season. Báez, who batted cleanup, took a long look at his drive from home plate and tossed his bat aside before circling the bases.
“He knew it immediately," Rojas said.
With fans chanting “Ja-vy! Ja-vy!” he came out of the dugout for a curtain call and raised both arms to spur on the crowd.
“The love that they showed me tonight, it was really special,” Báez said.
Báez was acquired Friday from the Chicago Cubs in a big deal just before baseball’s trade deadline. New York also received pitcher Trevor Williams and cash for outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong.
El Mago became the 30th player to homer in his Mets debut.
The flashy shortstop was greeted with several warm ovations, including during pregame introductions and even when he caught an easy popup for his first chance on defense.
Suárez was ejected after taking a called third strike in the eighth.
In addition to his clutch hit, Smith charged in for a sprawling catch in left field to rob Miley of a hit that would have scored two runs in the fourth.
When Votto came up in the fourth, the Citi Field scoreboard noted he had homered in seven straight games, one shy of the record, and added “No pressure, Joey.”
Hill retired Votto three times on slow curves that produced a grounder and two flyouts.
In a 40-minute pregame ceremony on the field, the Mets inducted left-hander Jon Matlack, right-hander Ron Darling and infielder Edgardo Alfonzo into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Al Jackson was posthumously honored with the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award for contributions to the organization.
Former teammates on hand for the festivities included Ed Kranepool, Keith Hernandez, Carlos Baerga, Rey Ordóñez, Mike Piazza and a white-haired Bobby Valentine.
“They finally found a way to get me out of the woods,” said the 71-year-old Matlack, who lives upstate. “It’s nice to see the city again.”
Reds: The plan is for reliever Lucas Sims (right elbow) to make a couple more minor league rehab appearances, including back-to-back outings, before potentially rejoining the Reds toward the end of next week. Bell, however, said timeframes could be sped up for several rehabbing players, including INF Mike Moustakas (bruised right heel) and OF Nick Senzel (left knee), if they keep feeling this good.
Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo was unavailable after feeling a pinch in his hamstring making a diving catch in the eighth inning Friday night.
The Mets formally optioned Williams to Triple-A Syracuse, where he started Saturday and pitched six solid innings in a win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The right-hander gave up two runs and four hits with six strikeouts and one walk. ... LHP Anthony Banda was designated for assignment, and RHP Akeem Bostick was assigned outright to Syracuse.
Rookie RHP Vladimir Gutiérrez (5-3, 4.75 ERA) starts Sunday for Cincinnati in the series finale against RHP Marcus Stroman (7-9, 2.63).
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