Even though it ended on a down note, the Atlanta Braves’ recent homestand was one of their most important stretches of the season.
The Braves will look to increase their lead in the NL East when they open a three-game series with the streaking Cincinnati Reds.
Atlanta’s six-game winning streak ended Monday with a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh. The Braves entered last Tuesday’s game with Washington tied for first place with the Nationals. Now they are 4 1/2 games up heading into this six-game trip, which will be followed by a 12-game homestand.
“We’ll take 6-1 any time,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We had a chance to sweep it, and we didn’t do it.”
Andruw Jones, who had been the Braves’ offensive sparkplug recently, hit just .166 with no homers during the homestand. But rookie Jeff Francoeur hit .435 with three homers and eight RBIs, while Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles hit a combined .436.
Chipper Jones, who was activated from the disabled list on July 18, hit .308.
“I’m very proud of the way everybody played,” Andruw Jones said. “It was a really good homestand.”
The Reds beat San Diego 7-1 on Sunday for their season-high fifth straight win. Adam Dunn hit a grand slam and Wily Mo Pena and Rich Aurilia added homers for Cincinnati, which outscored San Diego 33-18 in the series.
The Reds also outhomered the Padres 8-0, outhit them 33-18 and had 21 extra-base hits to San Diego’s four.
“Our team is going to hit home runs regardless,” said Dunn, who went 6-for-14 with three homers, two doubles and nine RBIs in the series. “It’s a big park (San Diego’s Petco) but I don’t think that the park really matters.”
Cincinnati is 12-5 since the All-Star break.