This series was full of both disappointments and surprises as the Braves took 2 out of 4 games in their series with the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds offense and pitching had struggled all season to get anything going as they were a dismal 3-18 coming into this series. However, something about playing the Braves brought out the best in Cincinnati. Their pitching staff came to life and stifled the Braves and the offense exploded as the Reds try and salvage what they can of an already disappointing. They are already 11 games behind in a tough NL Central division. The Braves found a way to stay out of a sweep from the worst team in baseball and called up top prospect Ronald Acuña Jr. in Game 3 of the series and his impact was immediately felt.
Game 1 saw the Reds explode with 10 runs on 10 hits which was their best offensive display so far this season. The Braves started of the game with a nice 2 run lead and Mike Foltynewicz pitched great early on. Unfortunately, once the 5th inning rolled around, everything seemingly started to unravel for Atlanta. The Reds scored 2 runs in the 5th, 5 in the 6th, and 3 in the 8th. Foltynewicz would only pitch 4 2/3 innings on 3 hits and 2 earned runs with 7 strike outs. He did walk 4 batters in this start, however. The bullpen woes continued in Game 1 as they allowed 8 earned runs between 4 relievers. The only pitcher that didn’t allow a run was Jesse Biddle who allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 1 batter. The Braves went on to lose the series opener 10-4.
Game 2 was more of the same for the Braves as they struggled to get a lot of offense going. Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle took a no hitter into the 7th inning against Atlanta. Brandon McCarthy had a tough outing as he went 5 innings with 3 earned runs on 6 hits with 1 walk and 1 strike out. Mahle’s no hit bid was ended thanks to a lead off home run from Freddie Freeman. Nick Markakis would follow that with a double to center field. Kurt Suzuki would then launch a 2 run home run to left field and end the night for the young Reds pitcher. Mahle finished his outing in 6 innings with 3 earned runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and 11 strike outs. As we headed into the 9th inning the Reds lead the Braves by a 7-3 score. However, much like the Braves have done all season so far, they rallied back to score 4 runs and tie the game at 7 a piece. Freeman started it all with a home run to right field. The Braves would then score on a bases loaded walk to Johan Camargo and an infield single from Inciarte that would score two runs. Unfortunately, the Braves would end up dropping game two on a walk off 2-run home run from Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett. The final score of Game 2 was 9-7 in favor of Cincinnati.
Game 3 would see the Major League debut of Braves top prospect (#2 in MLB according to mlb.com) Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuña would look to bring some life to a Braves team that struggled against a team they theoretically shouldn’t have lost to. This game would see the Braves offense get off to a nice start as they scored 3 times in the first 5 innings. All three runs coming from the bats of Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies. Matt Wisler pitched fairly well in his second start for the Braves since Aníbal Sánchez went down with an injury. Unfortunately, Matt walked into some bad luck in the 5th inning that allowed the Red to take the lead at 4-3. Wisler finished the day with 5 innings of work with 4 earned runs on 9 hits with 3 walks and no strike outs. Luckily, the bullpen would hold the Reds at 4 runs and the offense would score 2 runs between the 8th and 9th inning. Those runs coming thanks to Kurt Suzuki and Johan Camargo. The Braves would win Game 3 by a final score of 5-4 as A.J. Minter picked up his first save of the season.
Game 4 saw the Braves fight for a series split with the Reds. The offense would continue to play well in the finale of the series as they scored 7 runs on 13 hits. Freddie Freeman had 3 doubles in the game and scored 2 runs, Ronald Acuña Jr. went 3 for 4 including his first Major League homerun and double, Ozzie Albies launched a 2-run homerun, and Dansby Swanson continued his great work with a RBI single. Sean Newcomb had a great performance that was tarnished in the 5th inning due to some questionable calls behind the plate from C. B. Bucknor and the Reds offense taking advantage of some missed locations from Newcomb.
Sean finished the day with 6 innings of work with 4 earned runs on 5 hits. His walks were a little better this game, even though he still had 3 in the game. Only 1 of those walks was legitimate to me. 2 of those walks were on pitches that should have been strikes. Newcomb also racked up 7 more strike outs. However, in the 8th and 9th inning, the Braves would score 3 more runs to beat the Reds by a final score of 7-4 and leave Cincinnati with a 14-10 record and 2 games behind Philadelphia, where the Braves travel to next and hope to grab another series win against the Phillies (who are only a half of a game behind the Nationals). Game 1 against the Phillies starts tomorrow at 7:05 pm with Julio Teheran taking the mound for Atlanta and Aaron Nola for the Phillies.
- Ozzie Albies continues his amazing work as he hit two home runs in the series with 3 RBIs, despite going 0 for 9 in Games 1 and 2. He now has 18 extra base hits on the season which is a new franchise record at the end of April. He also leads the Braves in home runs with 8 of them so far in 2018.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. stepped into the lineup and proved why so many of us were excited to see him play. He went 4-9 with 1 home run and 2 RBIs. His first major league home run was a no doubter that went 416 feet and landed in the second deck of Great American Ballpark. His speed was a factor in Game 3 as he went first to third on a single from Dansby Swanson and would later score on a single from Kurt Suzuki. It’s safe to say Acuna has a bright future in Atlanta. Fans have a lot to be excited for each and every day with his addition to an already exciting line up.
- Shane Carle has continued to step up out of the bullpen and show why he earned a big league spot this spring. He currently sports a 2-1 record with an impressive 1.06 ERA over 17 innings of work. Carle also has 16 strike out and his WHIP sits at 1. In a bullpen that has been full of walks and mistakes, Shane has been a very nice surprise and a guy I think will be good all season if he can stay healthy.
- Not surprisingly, Ender Inciarte has started to heat up and be the lead off hitter we all know he can be. Over his last 15 games, Inciarte is batting .292 with 19 hits and 3 RBIs. As Ender promised before the season, he has been much more aggressive on the base path. He currently has 9 stolen bases which leads the team. The Braves have not been that active on the bases in a while and it excites me to see it being employed more often.