The Atlanta Braves have some work to do if they hope to remain in the division race.
They’ll be trying to chip away at their largest NL East deficit of the season Wednesday when they continue a four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
The Braves (66-60) lost 8-7 to the Reds (55-70) on Tuesday, falling six games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. Atlanta also trails second-place Philadelphia by one game.
The Braves have lost four of their last six and are just 19-18 since the All-Star break, when they were two games back in the East. However, they trail the Phillies and San Diego by only one game for the NL wild-card lead.
Atlanta blew leads of 3-0 and 7-5 on Tuesday and lost despite pounding out 12 hits. Over their last four games, the Braves have 33 runs and 46 hits, but are only 2-2.
“In this ballpark, anything can happen,” manager Bobby Cox said, referring to hitter-friendly Great American.
Brian McCann had a two-run homer a day after connecting for a grand slam, improving to .469 (15-for-32) with five homers in eight career games in Cincinnati. First baseman Mark Teixeira singled in a run, and is batting .292 with nine homers and 26 RBIs since being acquired from Texas on July 31.
Atlanta could get a boost on Wednesday. Cox said that he planned to put shortstop Edgar Renteria—out since Aug. 2 because of a sprained right ankle— back in the lineup.
Renteria leads the Braves with a .336 batting average and has 11 homers.
“He’s a hitting machine,” Cox told the Braves’ official team Web site.
Lance Cormier (0-3, 9.90 ERA) will look to reverse that trend in his fifth start of the season. He threw well enough to win on Friday, allowing three runs in a career-high 7 1-3 innings, but lost 4-0 as Arizona’s Brandon Webb extended his scoreless-innings streak to 42 innings.
“I’m definitely going to take some positives out of this game and work toward the next one,” Cormier told the Braves’ official team Web site.
Cormier has made five career relief appearances against the Reds, allowing 10 runs in nine innings. He has not faced Cincinnati since 2005 while still with the Diamondbacks.
Cormier will be up against a Reds team that has won five of its last eight. Cincinnati is averaging 5.9 runs this month and has scored at least six runs in seven of its last 11 games—and at least four in each of the last 12.
“The offense has done a great job battling back and keeping us in ballgames,” said reliever Bill Bray, who earned Tuesday’s win.
The Reds have won six of their last eight games against the Braves, including a three-game sweep in Atlanta July 16-18 in the only other series between the teams this season.
Bronson Arroyo (6-13, 4.58) will hope to keep that trend alive as he tries to win back-to-back starts for only the second time this season. He allowed three runs in 7 1-3 innings of Friday’s 8-3 win in Milwaukee.
“It was one of those days where you get lucky,” Arroyo said. “Through seven, it was probably the easiest start I’ve had all year. They were being really aggressive and I was getting lucky and getting outs.”
Arroyo is 3-1 with a 4.54 ERA in eight career appearances—seven starts— against the Braves. He threw seven scoreless innings in a 6-5 win in Atlanta in his only start against them this season.
Renteria is 6-for-14 (.429) lifetime against Arroyo.
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