DENVER -- The team Pittsburgh is racing on the National League Central track just lost one of its main pistons. But Pirates players are hardly bolstered by the injury to Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who on Tuesday underwent left-knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus ligament. Andrew McCutchen, Votto's peer as the Bucs' Most Valuable Player candidate, had a healthy reaction when asked how the loss could boost the Pirates' chances. "Does that mean that if he isn't hurt, we don't have a chance?" McCutchen said, grinning. "I hate for a star player to go down, but they still have a good group of guys who can still get the job done. They'll still be a tough team to beat. Having one guy out of their lineup doesn't really make it that much easier for us."
Votto's recovery is expected to take a minimum of three weeks, ruling out his availability for the next series between the teams, on Aug. 3-5 in Cincinnati. Votto hit .375 in the season's first nine Pirates-Reds meetings, and is a lifetime .322 hitter against the Bucs' current pitchers. "You're talking about one of the best players in the league," Neil Walker said. "As much as you hate to see anybody go down, it is what it is -- there's gonna be injuries. It's the same as if Andrew were to go down ... it'd certainly be a lot tougher on us." Manager Clint Hurdle was caught off-guard by the Votto news. "I heard about it just five minutes ago," Hurdle said a couple hours prior to first pitch against the Rockies. "I hate to see people get hurt. It's nothing that you have joy for. But it's part of the game -- you never know what's around the corner for anybody's team -- and you move on. They'll deal with it and move forward."