J.J. Hoover got off to a rocky start this season. The fans were turning on him just days into the season when he gave up two earned runs twice in the first four games.
Hoover acknowledged his struggles on Twitter on April 6.
“Thanks for the support,” he wrote. “I know not at my best. Will make adjustments and move on. Peaks and valleys in this sport. I’ve had them before!”
Five weeks later, Hoover is peaking. The 25-year-old right-handed reliever, who was acquired from the Braves in a trade for Juan Francisco on April 1, 2012, has retired 17 of the last 19 batters he’s faced. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances and has a 0.87 ERA in his last 11.
Hoover gave up a single in the ninth inning Sunday in Chicago and he committed a throwing error, but he allowed no further damage and got the save, his second of the season, in a 7-4 victory.
“I’m happy with it,” Hoover said. “I got off to a rough start at the beginning of the year, but I made some adjustments with my delivery and pitch selection, and I’m starting to get on a roll.”
Hoover has made 15 appearances. Only Aroldis Chapman (16) has made more. Hoover has 14 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
After Hoover gave up two earned runs in two innings against the Angels on Opening Day and two more in one inning five days later against the Nationals, he changed his pitch selection.
“I was throwing the slider back in there, which I used in the minors,” he said. “But I guess I was showing it, and the hitters were picking it up. I scrapped it and went back to fastball, curveball, changeup.”
Milestone for Baker: Reds manager Dusty Baker entered Monday night’s game against the Braves at Great American Ball Park sitting on 1,599 career wins. He tied his former manager, the Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda, on Sunday.
Baker, who has 1,446 losses, is three wins away from moving into a tie with the Pirates’ Fred Clarke for 17th place in baseball history.
“I was told a long time ago, ‘Don’t start looking at your accolades, what you’ve done. Don’t look until your through,’ ” Baker said. “I’ve got some more stuff to do.”
Back in lineup: Brandon Phillips and Shin-Soo Choo were back in the lineup Monday after a scary collision Sunday.
“Both of them are hurting,” Baker said. “Brandon banged his head. Choo got hit in the mouth. We’re here to play. I’m not going to put them out there if they’re not ready to play. At the same time, you can’t baby them either.”
Chasing St. Louis: The Reds trailed the Cardinals by 2½ games in the National League Central Division going into Monday’s game. St. Louis had won six in a row.
“You don’t want them Cardinals running off on you too much because they know how to run off on you,” Baker said. “We’ve got to keep them in our sights and hopefully pick up some ground.”
Today’s game: Homer Bailey (1-3, 3.38 ERA) makes his seventh start of the season at 7:10 tonight in the second game of the three-game series against the Braves. Bailey had his second-worst outing of the season in his last start, giving up four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings Wednesday at St. Louis.
Kris Medlen (1-4, 3.38 ERA) starts for the Braves. He went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts from July 31 to the end of the season a year ago.