Braves-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling for much of the year, Mike Minor turned in one of his better showings last weekend.

That's a good sign for the visiting Atlanta Braves, who will try to stay hot Friday night against a Cincinnati Reds team that's quickly dropping out of playoff contention.

Minor (5-8, 5.16 ERA) had a 6.97 ERA over an 11-start stretch before stepping up in Sunday's 4-3 win over Oakland. The left-hander yielded two runs and four hits over a season best-tying seven innings while striking out seven.

"I feel like I'm in a different mindset going out there," he told MLB's official website. "I really don't feel like anything bothers me anymore. I just want to go after hitters."

While the Braves already feature one of the best starting rotations in the NL, getting Minor on track would give them an extra boost down the stretch. He compiled a 1.93 ERA in winning both matchups against Cincinnati last year.

"He's got five, six or seven starts the rest of the way," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We're going to need him to get us where we want to go."

Atlanta (67-61) has won six of seven after cruising to an 8-0 victory in Thursday's series opener. Justin Upton had two hits and drove in three runs, and he's batting .400 with four homers and 18 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.

"We got on base for the middle of the lineup, and Justin's been awesome," first baseman Freddie Freeman said.

Upton has hit safely in six straight against the Reds, going 12 for 21 with two homers and eight RBIs.

The Braves are seven games behind NL East-leading Washington and neck and neck with San Francisco for the second wild-card spot.

Cincinnati (61-67) is 10 1/2 games back in the NL Central - its biggest deficit since the end of 2011 - after dropping 11 of 13, including six straight while being outscored 46-26. The Reds are hitting .224 during the skid after collecting five hits Thursday, their lowest total in 25 games.

Cincinnati dropped a season-worst seven straight July 18-25.

"Certainly disappointment, frustration, angry that we're not doing better," manager Bryan Price said of the clubhouse mood. "Angry that we've kind of put ourselves on the outside looking in as far as the probability of postseason play."

Slugging a career-low .385, Jay Bruce is 8 for 55 with one extra-base hit and one RBI in his last 15 home games. Leadoff man Billy Hamilton has also struggled at Great American Ball Park, going 5 for his last 45.

Bruce and Hamilton are a combined 3 for 30 against the Braves this year.

The Reds give the ball to Mat Latos (4-3, 3.10), who was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts this month before allowing three runs, eight hits and three walks over five innings in a 10-9 walkoff loss in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader at Colorado.

The right-hander owns a 2.31 ERA on the road compared to a 3.89 mark at home.

Latos gave up six runs over four innings in a 6-5 defeat at Atlanta on July 11, 2013, dropping to 3-3 with a 3.54 ERA against the Braves. Upton, Freeman and Chris Johnson are a combined 20 for 43 with two homers and eight doubles in their matchups.

Atlanta has outscored the Reds 18-5 in taking all four meetings this year, its longest winning streak in the series since 1999.

What to Read Next