Bottom of Braves' order spoils start for Bailey in loss
Reds take early lead, but righty runs into trouble in the middle innings
ATLANTA -- Baseball can be a funny game.
Homer Bailey found that out on Saturday afternoon at Turner Field, but he was not amused.
The National League Co-Player of the Week twice struck out Freddie Freeman, the hottest hitter in the Braves' batting order, but could not finish off Atlanta's Nos. 8 and 9 hitters -- rookie Joey Terdoslavich and pitcher Mike Minor -- in the fifth inning, and that stung the most in the Reds' 5-2 loss to the Braves, who played without their entire regular starting outfield.
"Freddie Freeman came up with guys on, he's probably their hottest hitter right now and I got him on three pitches. So, go figure," said Bailey, who is 1-4 in his last six starts. "It was more the bottom of their lineup that really beat us today. You give up seven infield singles, what do you really do?"
The balls seemed to have eyes, leaving the Reds rolling theirs.
"They say, 'You put the ball in play, anything can happen.' That's a prime example. Anything can," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "You strike out you have no chance. Homer was throwing the ball pretty good until the middle innings, then they scored some runs."
Bailey (5-8) came into Saturday 2-0 against Atlanta in his career with a .227 opposing batting average, and the current team was batting .210 against him, with 19 strikeouts in 93 plate appearances. He even was staked to a 2-0 lead after two innings.
Bailey, who struck out seven and walked one in six innings, yielded Co-NL Player of the Week Brian McCann's 12th homer of the season in the fourth inning. He'd jumped in front 0-2 in the count then caught too much of the plate with a 2-2 fastball on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
The fifth was the most vexing inning for Bailey and the Reds, as he allowed a soft opposite-field single to Chris Johnson, which just eluded second baseman Brandon Phillips, then back-to-back bouncing doubles, first to Terdoslavich just past Joey Votto at first, then a two-run double to Minor past Todd Frazier at third with the infield in. All three hits came on 1-2 pitches.
"Anybody with a bat is dangerous," said Baker. "They let [Minor] hit. You saw early in the game, they had him slug-bunting, then had him swinging. We were charging, so evidently he must be able to do something with the bat."
Minor's double gave Atlanta a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.
As frustrating as the lack of well-struck balls was the number of hits Atlanta got with two strikes.
"It's frustrating anytime you give up hits, but especially when you're ahead in the count like that and you're obviously making good pitches because they're not hitting them hard," Bailey said. "I think they had two balls that they squared up pretty good other than McCann's. One of them was right at me that I caught, and the other one was right at [shortstop Zack] Cozart. So go figure, right?"
Bailey has allowed a homer in five of his last six starts -- the exception was his no-hitter on July 2 -- and given up matching lines of four runs and 10 hits over his two starts following his no-no.
Leftfielder Chris Heisey believes the numbers are misleading.
"He made some good pitches. We just had the one inning with the two balls just barely down the lines," he said. "Stuff that you make good pitches and you're just unlucky. He pitched much better than to get the loss. But that's just kind of the way a baseball game goes sometimes."
The way things started out, it looked like things would be going Cincinnati's way.
The Reds jumped on Minor (9-4) for two runs and five hits over the first two innings, but left the bases loaded in the first inning. Cincinnati managed only one hit off the Braves' lefty after the second.
After leaving the bases loaded in the first, Cincinnati broke through in the second, as Cozart tripled over the head of centerfielder Reed Johnson then scored when former Brave Corky Miller, who played in Atlanta for parts of the 2007 and '08 seasons, followed by scorching a ball to first that deflected off the glove of Freeman to second baseman Dan Uggla, who completed the 3-4-3 putout. The RBI was Miller's first since Oct. 2, 2010.
Heisey followed by smashing a 1-1 pitch off the top of the wall in left field for a double. The play was reviewed but the call stood. Heisey would come home when Shin-Soo Choo, who extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games, ripped his second single of the game into center field.
"I didn't actually see it. I got to second base and I just thought it was a double," Heisey recalled. "I guess an inch more and I'd have had a home run. But that's kind of the way it goes."
After Choo's RBI single, giving him hits in each of the first two innings and his 32nd multihit game of the season, the Reds managed little off Minor.
"It's sort of disheartening when you see it happening over and over again," said Baker. "[Minor] wasn't sharp, we had him on the ropes and we came out with nothing. His pitch count was high. When he settled down in the middle innings, he was extremely tough on us."
The only Red to reach off Minor after the second was Jay Bruce, who singled with one out in the sixth, but he was thrown out attempting to steal to end the inning.
Cincinnati threatened in the eighth, as Votto drew a walk off reliever Luis Avilan with two outs and Phillips followed with a single, but Bruce's blast to dead center was corralled at the wall by Johnson to end the threat. The Reds finished 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
With one game remaining prior to the All-Star break, the Reds are looking for something good to happen.
"Right now it feels like the ball is not bouncing our way, but we're going to get back on track and get them bouncing our way again," said Heisey. "Right now we have to get the big hit or the big out and get a couple of wins in a row to get our momentum going again."