After somewhat of a disappointing seven-game road trip, the Braves entered Friday’s series at Turner Field with the Reds looking to post a few wins against a quality opponent.
The opener did not get off to the kind of start the Braves expected, as the Reds, who had endured a 19-inning game Wednesday night against the Phillies, jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Dan Uggla’s deep sacrifice fly scored Brian McCann, putting the Braves on the board.
Even down 3-1, the Braves had their chances to tie or take the lead.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Braves loaded the bases with 2 outs, but Alex Gonzalez grounded out, ending the threat.
The Reds tacked on two more runs off closer Craig Kimbrel in the top of the 9th, but the Reds had already put their stamp on this game, stealing a 5-1 victory in the opener.
Starting for the Braves was Tommy Hanson, and the young right hander lasted 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. Hanson struck out 4 and walked 3 before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
The bullpen was flawless until the 9th, when Kimbrel allowed the Reds to gain a little insurance.
Saturday, the pitching matchup featured former teammates in Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo.
The Braves got to Arroyo first, putting up 5 runs in the first 3 innings
Eric Hinske produced the first run-scoring single, driving in Chipper Jones before Arroyo got out of the 1st inning.
In the 2nd, Jordan Schaeffer and Martin Prado each produced RBI singles, giving the Braves a 3-0 lead.
The third was more of the same for Arroyo, this time with the long ball, as both McCann and rookie Freddie Freeman took Arroyo offerings into the seats, giving the Braves, and Lowe, a 5-0 lead.
But Lowe ran into trouble in the top of the 4th, giving up 5 runs on 3 consecutive hits, losing the lead before his day was ended.
The Reds scored one more time in the top of the 5th, taking a 6-5 lead before McCann came up in the bottom half and crushed his second home run of the game, tying the game at 6 apiece.
As both bullpens and lineups battled, the game stayed at 6 each and went into extra innings before Chipper provided the late-inning heroics this time, driving in Schaeffer with his game-winning single and ending another extra-inning contest for the Braves.
Sunday’s matchup, the ESPN Game of the Week, saw Jair Jurrjens and Johnny Cueto take the mound, as each looked to earn the win for his respective team, as well as the series victory.
The Reds got to JJ first, as Jay Bruce’s home run put the Reds up 1-0.
The game remained 1-0 until the bottom of the 6th, when Prado came to the plate after Schaeffer led off with a walk.
Prado wasted no time, drilling Cueto’s offering deep over the wall in left field, giving JJ and the Braves a 2-1 lead.
It was all JJ needed, as he continued to excel this season, earning his 7th victory of the season and lowering his MLB-best ERA to 1.51. The young righty allowed 6 runs and struck out 5. He only walked one.
Kimbrel worked the 9th, allowing the tying run to reach 2nd before ending the game with a strike out and earning his 15th save in 19 chances.
With the series with the Reds (27-27) behind them, the Braves (30-24) now welcome the Padres (22-31) to Turner Field for a three-game set.
Monday’s opener (1:05 EST) will see Tim Hudson make his first start since last Friday May 20, and he will oppose Aaron Harang.
Hudson lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Angels, giving up 8 runs on 7 hits in a 9-0 Braves loss.
In Harang’s last start, he went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs and 8 hits, but did not earn a decision in the Padres 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Tuesday’s middle game (7:10 EST), the final game in May, will pit Mike Minor against Mat Latos.
Minor went 5 2/3 innings in his last outing, an Atlanta 4-2 win in Pittsburgh, but did not earn the decision. Minor gave up 1 run and 7 hits before the bullpen closed the deal. He struck out 5 and walked 2.
Latos earned his 2nd victory of the season in his last start, tossing 8 innings and giving up 1 run in a 3-1 win over the Cardinals.
Wednesday’s finale (7:10 EST) will see Hanson look to get back on the winning track as he goes opposite Clayton Richard.
Richard went 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits in his last start against the Nationals, a 2-1 Padres loss. Richard did not earn a decision that day.
Even as the Padres are 4-6 coming into the series, the Braves cannot take them lightly, as is the same with any team.
Keys to the series
- Do not let the Padres gain any momentum
- This is a club that has not been hot of late, but can wake up at any moment. They won their last two games in Washington and are looking to make it 3 straight come Monday. If the Braves play the way they did against the Reds, they will be fine.
- Continue the dominant pitching
- Aside from a few innings in Friday and Saturday’s games, the Braves pitching staff has been close to dominant, limiting opponents runs and opportunities. The Padres do not scare many opponents with their offense, but they still are capable of breaking out at any time
- Finish May off strong & get June off to a good start
- With two games left in May, the Braves are 17-9 after winning 12 of their first 16. While they just missed out equaling their May of 2010 (20-8), winning out will provide the Braves with a great month of baseball to work off of into the summer months. After Wednesday’s finale, the Braves embark on a 10-game road trip, visiting each of their NL East rivals, excluding the Phillies.