- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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"I don't like the Cubs," said Votto, the first baseman for the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds. "And I'm not going to pat anybody with a Cubs uniform on the back."
Asked why he has such disdain for the Cubs, Votto said: "We are Cincinnati Reds. We're taught to hate everything in the Central Division. That's just how it is."
Then Byrd turned in a heads-up play in right field in the ninth inning when he forced Boston's David Ortiz at second base. Toronto's John Buck flared a ball to right field and Byrd had to decide whether to go for the shoestring catch, or try to force Ortiz with a throw. Byrd's perfect throw forced the slow-footed Ortiz out at second base, setting up the final out of the game as Ian Kinsler flew out to Chris Young in center field.
After the game, Votto was a little more kind.
"Because [Byrd] made that really cool play, it turned out to be a really cool experience," Votto said. "I'm really glad we got the win [Tuesday]."
Byrd was asked Thursday about Votto's statements before the Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies.
"That's the competitiveness in Joey Votto," Byrd said. "He's an MVP candidate right now.
"He's going to say what he believes. But at the same time, I don't think any Cubs are going to be patting a Cincinnati Reds player on the back during the season."
Byrd was asked if Votto is a particularly aggressive player.
"He's a great guy," Byrd said. "But when it comes to baseball, he's like I am on the field, go get 'em. I can smile at the opposing player, but at the same time, I don't wish them well when I'm playing against them. I'm going to play against the Phillies. I'm friends with a lot of guys. Jimmy Rollins is my man, but he knows I'll flip him if I have to."
With the Reds in first place in the NL Central at the break, the irony is that Byrd's plays may help Votto and the Reds end up with home-field advantage if Cincinnati makes it to the World Series. The winning team in the Midsummer Classic gives its league home-field advantage in the World Series.
Votto may not like the Cubs, but he has to love playing against them. He's hit 15 homers in only 43 games against Chicago, by far the most he's hit against any opponent. And he's even more at home at Wrigley Field, batting .322 with eight homers in only 25 games.
Votto is hitting .314 with a league-leading 22 homers and 60 RBIs this season, making his first All-Star team. Byrd was also a first-time All-Star based on his .317 average and league-best 27 doubles.
The next series between the Cubs and Reds is Aug. 6-8 in Chicago.