Cody Reed’s bounce-back performance and a two-run ninth inning rally weren’t enough to overcome the Reds’ inconsistent defense, questionable base-running and lack of clutch hitting.
Ender Inciarte delivered a sacrifice fly off Blake Wood in the 11th inning to give the Atlanta Braves a 5-4 win over Cincinnati on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park.
The Braves got leadoff hits from Nick Markakis off Tony Cingrani (2-3) and Jeff Francoeur off Wood to set up the Inciarte’s go-ahead RBI.
Cincinnati tied it with a two-run ninth. Eugenio Suarez led off with a single and went to third on Ramon Cabrera’s soft double down the left-field line. Pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart grounded out to shortstop, driving in Suarez with pinch-runner Jose Peraza going to third.
Zack Cozart delivered a game-tying single to left, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, which loomed large when Billy Hamilton followed with an infield single. Hamilton was caught stealing with Joey Votto at the plate to send the game to the 10th.
Reed calmed down after a nervous start to give himself and the Reds a dose of confidence.
“I was really trying to keep my confidence level up,” the left-hander said. “The first two innings, I was too quick. I was rushing the ball. I talked to (pitching coach Mack Jenkins) and he said, ‘Your tempo is better, but it still can be better.’ ”
The first four Atlanta batters hit the ball hard off Reed, but with Gordon Beckham on first and nobody out in the first inning, Votto at first base made an ankle-high backhand stab of Adonis Garcia’s line drive a step from the bag and stepped on first to complete an unassisted double play.
Left fielder Adam Duvall followed with a tumbling backhand catch of Freddie Freeman’s line drive to finish the inning. Duvall turned his body sideways to cut down on the glare from the setting sun.
“The first time through the order, (the Braves) hit five balls right on the barrel, but from that point on, they just hit one,” manager Bryan Price said. “(Reed) just went out and pitched. He was really strong over the final few innings, and that’s something we’d like to see more of. I thought he slowed his tempo down to the point where it was controllable.”
Votto drew the first of his three walks with two outs in the first inning and All-Star right fielder Jay Bruce followed with a drive to left-center field that sailed into the tunnel next to the Cincinnati bullpen for his 18th homer of the season and first since July 5
As good as the Reds’ defense was in the first, it was that bad in the second. The Reds, who went into the game ranked 27th among the 30 major-league teams in fielding percentage, clustered two errors that allowed Atlanta to tie the game. Suarez booted a possible double-play ball at third with one out that left the Braves with runners on first and second. Reed walked catcher Anthony Recker to load the bases, and shortstop Erick Aybar hit a sharp one-hopper that glanced off Reed and went into right field, driving in Nick Markakis from third.
Bruce charged the ball and overran it, and by the time he scrambled back to retrieve it, Inciarte — who had stopped at third — had time to score the tying run.
The Reds got runners on base in every one of Atlanta starter Tyrell Jenkins’ six innings, but they were able to score in just the first. They couldn’t advance Suarez after his leadoff double in the second and finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Despite playing with a hairline fracture in his left hand and a right calf that needs to be watched after he strained it Friday, Brandon Phillips extended his hitting streak to eight games with a one-out ground-rule double to center field in the sixth.
Michael Lorenzen walked the first batter he faced – Erick Aybar, the No. 8 hitter in the order – after taking over in the seventh and allowed a one-out homer to Gordon Beckham.
“You certainly want to go after anybody in that situation, but Lorenzen just wasn’t locked in,” Price said. “They got the two-run homer, but that the stage for the ninth-inning comeback.”
The homer snapped two streaks. It was the first allowed by a Cincinnati reliever in 31 2/3 innings over nine games since July 4 at Wrigley Field, the longest streak for the Reds bullpen since a stretch of 33 2/3 innings over 11 games in May of last season. It also was the first run allowed by the bullpen in a season-high 13 1/3 innings.
The Reds, the last-place team in the National League Central Division, and the East Division cellar-dwelling Braves are 3-3 in their season series going into the rubber match Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.