As Votto came to the plate in the top of the fifth inning of Chicago's 15-5 rout of Cincinnati, usual third baseman Kris Bryant moved to left-center field, with left fielder Kyle Schwarber playing near the foul line. Jon Jay remained in center, with Jason Heyward in right field.
The left side of the infield was vacant, as shortstop Javier Baez played up the middle.
Votto beat the alignment by doubling to right field.
It was the first time the Cubs had employed that look since Joe Maddon took over as manager in 2015, although Maddon said he had used the shift while managing the Tampa Bay Rays.
"We'll continue to throw it out there when we think it's the right thing to do."
Jay, who had three hits with an RBI and finished a home run shy of the cycle, said it was the first time he was part of a shift to a four-man outfield.
"That's kind of cool. It's smart," he said, although he conceded that "communication can get a little dicey out there."
The Cubs extended their National League Central lead to 1½ games over the idle St. Louis Cardinals.