Braves-Reds Preview


Despite another poor showing at the plate, the Cincinnati Reds did just enough to snap their lengthy losing streak.

Unfortunately for manager Bryan Price's team, it's likely a case of too little, too late.

Coming off their first win in more than a week, the Reds try to salvage a four-game split against the visiting Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Cincinnati (62-68) had been outscored 49-27 during a season worst-tying seven-game losing streak before squeezing out a 1-0 victory Saturday. Mike Leake combined with three relievers on a three-hitter and scored the game's only run on Brandon Phillips' RBI single.

"He was unbelievable," catcher Brayan Pena said of Leake. "It was an amazing performance by him. He knew how much we needed this victory."

The Reds' win was just their third in 15 games, a stretch over which they're hitting .214. Cincinnati was four games out of first place prior to its rough patch, but now finds itself 9 1/2 games in back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee.

"It wasn't just that we lost seven straight, but the way we lost them," Price, whose team improved to 1-5 against the Braves this year. "Gut-wrenching, late-game losses. Long winning streaks start with No. 1."

It's also been a struggle for Alfredo Simon (12-8, 3.35 ERA), who is winless since making the NL All-Star team. The right-hander has gone 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA over seven starts while posting a .322 opponents' batting average, more than 100 points higher than his .219 mark before the break.

Simon allowed three runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 5-4 walkoff loss at St. Louis.

"From a technical standpoint, he's not getting out front where he's creating a good downward plane, working the ball to the bottom of the zone," Price said earlier this month. "He's not a big strikeout pitcher; he's a good sinker and early-contact ground-ball pitcher who can strike some guys out. But he's pitching behind more and he's elevating a lot more pitches."

This marks Simon's first start against the Braves. He's posted a 1.08 ERA in five relief appearances spanning 8 1-3 innings in the series.

Atlanta counters with Aaron Harang (10-7, 3.50), who allowed three runs over a season-high 8 1-3 innings in Tuesday's 11-3 victory at Pittsburgh. The right-hander managed to avoid walking anybody for just the second time this year, improving to 4-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his last six road starts.

Harang, who spent seven-plus seasons in Cincinnati from 2003-2010, has since gone 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three outings against his former team. Jay Bruce, Phillips, Zack Cozart and Ryan Ludwick went a combined 2 for 30 in their matchups over the previous two seasons.

The Braves (68-62) dropped to 7-2 over their last nine after going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position Saturday. They remain one game behind San Francisco for the NL's second wild-card spot.

"Just one of those nights," B.J. Upton said. "We couldn't get that run."

Justin Upton's 13-game hitting streak was snapped after going 0 for 4. He's still hitting .409 with four homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs in 18 games against the Reds since the start of 2012.

Bruce, 6 for his last 51 at Great American Ball Park, is hitting .150 over a 17-game stretch against the Braves.