Braves-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves weren't able to get much offense going with Chipper Jones out of the lineup the last two games. They could certainly use him in their next contest.

The Braves and Cincinnati Reds open a four-game series Monday night with each team starting a pitcher that ranks among the NL's worst in ERA.

After splitting a two-game set with Miami, Atlanta (26-16) opened its seven-game road trip by taking two of three against Tampa Bay. Tim Hudson outpitched David Price in a 2-0 win Sunday and got all the support he needed from David Ross' third-inning homer.

The Braves scored two runs in each of the last two games without Jones, who was hit by a hard one-hop liner in Friday's game. He is day to day with a bruise on his left calf.

"He's walking around better," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Hopefully (he'll play Monday) or maybe even Tuesday.''

Jones, who is batting .307 this season with five homers and 24 RBIs, had two hits and drove in a run as Atlanta and Cincinnati split a pair of games last week.

The Reds (21-19) finished their seven-game trip with a winning record after taking the final two against the Yankees. Ryan Ludwick had a solo homer among his three hits and drove in three in a 5-2 victory Sunday. Ryan Hanigan also hit a solo home run for the Reds, who will be playing at home Monday for only the fourth time in a 17-game stretch.

Aroldis Chapman earned his first save of the season Sunday and has a 0.00 ERA in 22 1-3 innings with 39 strikeouts this season. With closer Sean Marshall struggling, manager Dusty Baker would not comment about Chapman's role as potential closer. The hard-throwing left-hander is open to it.

"Either inning for me is the same,'' Chapman said through a translator. "Maybe one day things will get complicated and I'll get some pressure, but I don't feel that."

Monday could be a big game at the plate for both teams. Atlanta's Mike Minor (2-3, 7.09 ERA) has the second-highest ERA among NL pitchers with at least 37 innings, while Cincinnati's Mike Leake (0-5, 6.21) is fourth.

Minor is trying to stay in the rotation after getting hit hard in four straight starts. He has allowed six or more runs in five of his eight outings this year, including four in a row - the first Braves starter to do so since John Thompson in 2006.

Minor lasted 4 2-3 innings against Miami on Wednesday, giving up six runs and six hits in an 8-4 loss.

"We have to be patient with him and get him through those types of innings," Gonzalez said. "I think he'll be better off at the other end, when he gets through those innings."

The left-hander is making his first start against the Reds.

Leake hasn't had much better luck this season, although he's coming off his strongest start of the year.

Leake allowed three runs - a season-low one earned - in six innings of a 6-3 win over the Mets on Wednesday. He failed to make it through the fourth inning in two of his previous three starts and had allowed a season high-tying six runs in his previous appearance.

"I was kind of a hole in the rotation, but it was a matter of time where I was going to come around," Leake said. ''I just need to string a few together. I'm not going to put the pressure on myself to do it, but I'm just going to go out there with the same attitude that I had tonight."

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against the Braves - both at Turner Field.

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