The Atlanta Braves upped their record to 16-7 (second-best in the major leagues) with a win over the Cincinnati Reds Saturday night. The win guaranteed that the Braves will win a fifth straight series. Over that series-winning streak, the Braves have compiled an 11-3 record.
The Braves benefited from another strong outing by one of the unexpectedly outstanding starters in their cobbled rotation. David Hale stupefied the Reds, yielding just two first-innings hits in eight innings pitched. It was only Hale’s sixth big-league start, and probably his last for the foreseeable future, as rotation mainstay Mike Minor is nearing his return from the disabled list (shoulder) for his first start of the 2014 season.
While the Reds’ hitters went limp against Hale, Reds’ starting pitcher Mike Leake pitched the semblance of batting practice early in the game, giving up three home runs in the first three frames, and was only spared dreaded back-to-back-to-back home runs by virtue of an uncharacteristically spectacular home run robbing play by Reds’ left fielder Ryan Ludwick.
The loss by the Reds (11-13) halted their three-series winning streak, which had enabled the team to briefly climb back to .500 for the first time since the second game of the season.
The Reds bore the brunt of injuries to third baseman Todd Frazier and catcher Devin Mesoraco, who both left yesterday’s game early. Their replacements, Neftali Soto and Brayan Pena failed to hit a ball out of the infield (combined 0-for-6, all ground outs including one double play).
The Reds will rely on ace Johnny Cueto (1.38 ERA in five starts) to prevent a sweep in tomorrow’s series finale. Cueto will duel with the Braves’ emerging ace Julio Teheran, who has posted an ERA of 1.80 in his five starts this year.