When the Braves landed in Cincinnati, they were getting ready to take on a struggling Reds team that had scored three runs in three games against the surprising Pirates.
It did not appear as if the Reds struggles would last much longer after Jair Jurrjens gave up a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, putting the Reds up 1-0.
After Bronson Arroyo got through the first three frames, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann quickly helped him forget about those innings, hitting solo home runs on back-to-back pitches and giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.
Atlanta took a 3-1 lead in the 6th after McCann scored on Alex Gonzalez’s single that dropped just in front of Reds CF Drew Stubbs, but the centerfielder limited the Braves to just that run as he threw Eric Hinske out at the plate. Hinske was attempting to score from second after his double put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out.
The Reds answered right back, getting three runs in the bottom of the 6th off home runs by Fred Lewis and Stubbs, but Martin Prado tied the game in the top of the 7th, hitting a game-tying solo shot that ricocheted just off the heel of Stubbs glove as he attempted to rob Prado.
The game stayed knotted at 4 until the top of the 9th. Gonzalez singled to lead off before taking second on Brooks Conrad’s sacrifice bunt. With his 12 game hitting streak on the line, Dan Uggla came to the plate looking to give the Braves the lead.
He did just that, taking a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right center and giving the Braves a 6-4 lead, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. It was all Craig Kimbrel needed, as the rookie locked down his 31st save of the year. Jurrjens went 6 innings, giving up the four runs on four hits while fanning nine and walking three. His nine strikeouts were one short of his career-high. Venters pitched a perfect 8th for his 5th win.
It was Uggla’s first ever pinch hit appearance.
Saturday’s contest was a tale of two different ballgames.
Once again, the Reds got on the board early, scoring in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead before the Braves took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 2nd after Derek Lowe’s double scored Uggla and Hinske. The Braves had a chance to score first in the top of the 1st after Heyward doubled with one out, but he was thrown out at home trying to score on Freddie Freeman’s single to left.
As hot as it was, Lowe silenced the Reds bats until the 6th inning, when everything fell apart. Lowe gave up five consecutive hits, three for extra bases, as the Reds put up three runs in the frame, taking a 4-2 lead. It did not end there, as they put up a seven-spot in the bottom of the 7th, taking an 11-2 lead.
Lowe completed 5 innings but did not retire a batter in the 6th, as he allowed four runs on six hits while striking out just one and walking two.
With a chance to take the season series (the Braves took two of three in Atlanta May 27-29), the Braves sent Brandon Beachy to the mound in Sunday night’s ESPN Game of the Week, opposite Dontrelle Willis.
Beachy was victimized early by the long ball, giving up a home run in the first and second inning before settling in to shut the Reds down over the next 4 innings.
Looking up at a 3-0 deficit, the Braves offense got things going in the 4th, starting with McCann’s leadoff shot that landed 433 feet from home plate. Not done there, Freeman doubled a batter later and scored after Wilkin Ramirez hustled out a potential inning-ending double play, giving the Braves their second run of the game.
The Braves tied the game in the 7th after McLouth singled with one out, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Julio Lugo’s pinch hit single.
After watching the Braves waste a chance to take the lead, stranding Gonzalez at third in the top of the 9th, Stubbs ended the game and the series, leading off the top of the 9th win a game-winning home run, giving the Reds a 4-3 victory and earning a split of the season series.
In the finale, Uggla went 0-for-3, ending his hitting streak at 14 consecutive contests. In his 6 innings of work, Beachy gave up three runs on five hits, striking out four and walking four while throwing 112 pitches. O’Flaherty and Venters pitched scoreless 7th and 8th innings before Linebrink allowed Stubbs to end the game.
The two teams split the season series, and in each series, the visitors took the opener before the home team won the final two of the set.
Now, the Braves head home to take on the Pirates for a four-game set, with expectations on Chipper Jones returning to the lineup.