The Atlanta Braves aren’t hitting much these days, putting even more of a burden on their injury-riddled pitching staff.
On Saturday night, that burden falls on a pitcher with only 10 major league starts under his belt.
Early this season, Atlanta (13-15) has seen first-hand the dangers of relying on an aging starting rotation. Tom Glavine, 42, missed 13 games with a hamstring injury before returning Tuesday. Mike Hampton, seeking to return to the majors for the first time since 2005, is out indefinitely with a strained pectoral muscle.
Forty-one-year-old John Smoltz pitched well in five starts before landing on the disabled list with shoulder and biceps problems, and is likely to work out of the bullpen when he returns.
The Braves’ lineup hasn’t been doing much to pick up the slack, scoring three runs or fewer in five consecutive games and seven of the last nine.
Atlanta had only six hits in Friday’s series opener, but Brian McCann’s two-run homer was enough to support Tim Hudson, who pitched a three-hitter for his 11th career shutout as the Braves won 2-0 to end their season-high four-game losing streak.
“We needed this win big-time, and we need to keep winning,” McCann said.
Reyes (2-2, 6.22 ERA in 2007) will take the mound Saturday with a chance to earn a permanent spot in the rotation. The 23-year-old left-hander was dominant at Triple-A Richmond this April, posting a 1.17 ERA in five starts.
Reyes had a rough time in two starts against the Reds (12-18) last season, going 0-1 while allowing nine runs, 12 hits and six walks over nine innings with only one strikeout.
After totaling 24 runs during a three-game winning streak, Cincinnati has fallen into an offensive rut of its own, managing a total of four runs and 15 hits while losing three straight games. The Reds are batting .306 and scoring 6.8 runs per game in their wins, but averaging only 2.3 runs while batting .213 in their losses.
“He was dealing tonight,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Hudson after Friday’s loss. “His ball was dipping and diving. I’d like to think it was him and not us.”
Cincinnati starter Matt Belisle (1-1, 9.00), who spent the first three weeks of April on the disabled list with right forearm soreness, has not fared well in his first two starts back, as opponents have batted .395 against him.
The right-hander gave up four runs over five innings last Saturday at San Francisco, but benefited from plenty of offensive support and got credit for Cincinnati’s 10-9 win.
Belisle has never started against the Braves. He has made five relief appearances versus Atlanta, earning one win while giving up two runs over 4 2-3 innings.