Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked before Monday’s game against the Braves if he believes in momentum, a concept that’s about as fickle in baseball as the weather.
“Momentum’s in the hands of the pitcher,” Baker said. “He can create momentum or stop it.”
That was never truer than Monday when Reds starter Bronson Arroyo gave up four runs in five innings and reliever Logan Ondrusek fell apart in the seventh. Although Reds pitchers recorded a season high for a nine-inning game with 15 strikeouts, the Reds fell 7-4 to Atlanta in the opener of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
“It was a struggle, but when (Arroyo) left, it was 4-2,” Baker said. “You want your pitcher to keep you in the game.”
Fresh off a sweep of the Cubs in Chicago, Cincinnati (18-15) returned home after a 10-game road trip to see its momentum stalled by Arroyo’s sub-par effort and a career game by Atlanta’s shortstop and No. 8 hitter, Andrelton Simmons. He hit two home runs and had a career-high four RBIs.
Arroyo left after five innings, having thrown 97 pitches. He struck out seven in his shortest outing of the season and allowed eight hits with two walks. It’s the third time in seven starts he’s given up at least four runs.
“It’s definitely a deep lineup,” Arroyo said. “It’s a good mix of righties and lefties. The Braves find a way to be very scrappy against me and force me to throw a lot of pitches. I haven’t had a lot of success against those guys over the years.”
Three of the first four Atlanta batters reached in the first, and Chris Johnson scored on a one-out single by Freddie Freeman.
Simmons led off the second with a home run, his third of the season.
Atlanta pushed its lead to 3-0 in the fourth with a leadoff triple by Dan Uggla and an RBI single by Simmons.
The Reds cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2 in the fourth. Zack Cozart led off with a single. Joey Votto followed with a walk. Then Brandon Phillips, the team leader with 27 RBIs entering the game, doubled to left, scoring Cozart.
A groundout by Bruce scored Votto from third, and Phillips moved to third with one out. But a strikeout by Todd Frazier and a groundout by Devin Mesoraco ended the inning.
The Braves got one of those runs back in the fifth when a double by Evan Gattis scored Justin Upton.
Alfredo Simon provided the highlight of the night for the Reds, striking out all six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Braves (19-12) extinguished any hopes for a Reds comeback in the seventh. Simmons hit a two-run home run off Ondrusek with two outs, and one batter later, pinch hitter Jordan Schafer homered to right, giving Atlanta a 7-2 lead.
Braves at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410