CINCINNATI — Reds star Joey Votto went ballistic 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.
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.
Votto was tossed by plate umpire Bill Welke while the Reds were trying to rally in the eighth. The 2010 NL MVP argued a called strike two and slammed down his batting helmet, hollering and gesturing as he went nose-to-nose with Welke.
The dispute quickly escalated and Reds teammates intervened to restrain Votto, with first base umpire Laz Diaz helping prevent the big hitter from getting back at Welke. Cincinnati manager Bryan Price also was ejected.
Price said he understood the Votto asked for time and didn't get it. Votto had left the clubhouse when reporters arrived postgame. Welke declined comment.
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.
Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his major league-leading 44th save.
Keyvius Sampson (2-4) took the loss.
Votto was ejected 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.
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.
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.