The Cincinnati Reds are beating the teams they have to beat if they don’t want to be the worst team in the National League.
The Reds (36-59) took two of three games from the Milwaukee Brewers (39-59) last weekend and then secured another 2-1 series win Wednesday with a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves (33-62).
The Reds’ winning percentage has climbed from .358 to .379 since July 1. For now, they are no longer on pace to be the worst team in franchise history. The 1982 Reds were 61-101 (.377).
“So much of it is that combination of good pitching, improved defense and some really timely hitting,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “Today there was some great base-running, too.”
Price referenced the decision by Eugenio Suarez to move from first base to second on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Phillips in the sixth. Jay Bruce also moved from second to third on the play.
One batter later, Jose Peraza singled, and Bruce and Suarez scored to tie the game at 2-2. One batter after that, Tucker Barnhart homered to give the Reds a 4-2 lead.
“Suarez following (Bruce) set the table for Peraza to line that two-run single,” Price said, “and that led to (Barnhart’s) two-run homer.”
Hot bat: Joey Votto went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run. He has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games and has a .565 on-base percentage during that span. In six games since the All-Star break, Votto is hitting .550 (11-for-20).
Rehab start: Homer Bailey made his fifth rehab appearance Wednesday for the Triple-A Louisville Bats since returning to action June 27. He allowed five earned runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Bailey threw 83 pitches and allowed three home runs. He left the game because he reached his pitch count.
Power stat: The Reds are one of two teams who have five players with at least 15 home runs. The Orioles are the other.
Adam Duvall has 23 home runs. Bruce has 19. Suarez and Votto have 16. Cozart has 15.
Next series: After an off day Thursday, the Reds play three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend at Great American Ball Park. They have lost five straight to the Diamondbacks.
The Reds announced their pitching rotation Wednesday. Dan Straily (4-6, 4.07) will start Friday.
Keyvius Sampson (0-1, 5.71) will start Saturday. It will be the first big-league start of the season for Sampson, who threw four scoreless innings of relief in his last appearance. He started nine games in Triple-A.
Brandon Finnegan (5-7, 4.66) will start Sunday.