CINCINNATI (AP)—Blame it on the ballpark. Or, maybe the humidity was the problem. Perhaps it was the strike zone.
Whatever the cause for the Braves’ latest loss, the outcome is clear: Atlanta is looking up from its deepest hole of the season.
Brandon Phillips hit a solo homer and a tiebreaking single in the sixth inning Tuesday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-7 victory. The Braves fell a season-high six games behind the New York Mets in the NL East, and couldn’t quite agree on the reason why.
“In this ballpark, anything can happen,” manager Bobby Cox said.
No lead lasted for long at one of the majors’ most hitter-friendly ballparks. There were three blown leads on a hot, sticky night.
Phillips’ solo homer in the fifth helped the Reds come from two runs down to tie the game at 7. He broke the tie an inning later with a run-scoring single off Peter Moylan (4-3), who hit two batters during the Reds’ go-ahead rally.
Moylan had trouble gripping the ball on a humid night.
“The ball just kept slipping out of my hand,” Moylan said. “I’ve never had that happen before.”
Cincinnati’s bullpen has been among the majors’ worst all season, but held up this time. Left-hander Bill Bray (3-0) allowed only one hit in 1 1-3 innings, and David Weathers pitched around a single and a walk to get the final three outs for his 26th save in 31 chances.
“The offense has done a great job battling back and keeping us in ballgames,” Bray said.
The Braves have gone only 19-18 since the All-Star break and lost four games in the standings. They lead the NL in road batting average, but weren’t able to make another big night by the offense hold up.
Phillips had three hits, and Jorge Cantu drove in three runs with a double and single, helping the Reds overcome deficits of 3-0 and 7-5.
Cantu was traded to the Reds from Tampa Bay on July 19 and was called up from the minors on Monday after Jeff Conine was traded to the Mets.
“I’m starting over,” Cantu said. “The past is the past. Let’s leave it like that. A fresh start is always a good thing. I even told my dad when I got traded, I feel like I’m breathing better. Now, here we go.”
Brian McCann led the Braves with a two-run homer off starter Bobby Livingston, who gave up seven runs in only 4 2-3 innings. McCann had a grand slam in the opening game of the series at Great American Ball Park, where he is 15-for-32 career with five homers.
There were plenty of hits to go around in this one.
Mark Teixeira singled home a run in the first inning to get it going, extending his tear since he joined the Braves in a seven-player swap with Texas on July 31. The first baseman has driven in a run in 14 of his 19 games with Atlanta, piling up 26 RBIs overall.
Braves left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, called up from Triple-A to start the game, lasted only 2 2-3 innings. The Reds scored five times in the third, when Reyes walked three batters to set the rally in motion. Cantu’s two-run double made it 5-3.
Reyes implied that plate umpire Gerry Davis had a small strike zone that contributed to his problems.
“I felt good out there today,” Reyes said. “I threw the pitches I wanted to throw. I got more outs than (will show up) in the box score.”
Andruw Jones tripled home a pair of runs to tie it in the fifth, and McCann followed with his second homer in two games.
Phillips hit a solo homer off Ron Mahay in the fifth, and Cantu singled home another run to tie it at 7 later in the inning. Phillips broke the tie an inning later with his single to right field—Jeff Francoeur threw Jeff Keppinger out at the plate as he tried to score from second on the hit.
The Braves put LHP Chuck James on the 15-day DL because of tightness in the back of his pitching shoulder. James was originally scheduled to start on Tuesday. … They also gave RHP Tanyon Sturtze his unconditional release. He hasn’t made it back from shoulder surgery last year. … OF Norris Hopper led off the Reds’ first inning with his 14th bunt single. … The Reds haven’t decided who will take LHP Phil Dumatrait’s spot in the rotation. He was optioned to the minors Tuesday and replaced by reliever Kirk Saarloos. … Keppinger extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games.