Both the Atlanta Braves (15-7) and the Cincinnati Reds (11-12) have enjoyed tremendous starting pitching success so far this year. Heading into Friday’s night game, the Braves were on top in the NL in ERA (an absurd 1.50 in 21 games) and the Reds were fifth with a sparkling 2.69 ERA. The Braves and Reds also ranked first and second in opponents’ batting average (.204 and .205) and WHIP (1.01 and 1.09).
Ervin Santana has been a big part of that early season success for the Braves. He continued to play his part for the first five shutout innings of his start against the Reds Friday night before he was driven from the game in the seventh.
Santana (3-0) surrendered nine hits and four earned runs in 6-2/3 innings against the Reds. The earned runs were twice as many as he had given up total in his first three starts this year. His 0.86 ERA heading into his start against the Reds was second in the NL, only slightly higher than the equally immaculate 0.85 ERA of his teammate Aaron Harang. Santana’s ERA is 1.95, but his outing was just strong enough for him to earn the win.
As for the Reds’ rotation, they have benefited from a superb rebound year from ace Johnny Cueto and the unexpected success of Alfredo Simon, who has replaced injured Mat Latos in the Reds’ rotation since the beginning of the season.
The one starting pitcher for the Reds who has not performed well is the one who faced Santana Friday night — Homer Bailey, whose awful start to 2014 is a stark contrast to the six-year, $105 million extension Bailey signed in the offseason.
Bailey (1-2) was bad once again as the Braves battered him for five earned runs in six innings. His 5.75 ERA coming into the game swelled further to 6.15 with yet another poor outing. Bailey’s first five starts of this year are a stark contrast to his first five starts last year: 2.81 ERA in 32 innings.
Although a pitchers’ duel didn’t materialize between the two pitchers, an energized, close game did unfold between the two teams with the 5-4 Braves’ win finalized by a controversial challenged call at first base to end the game.