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After Votto's homer, Reds fall short to Braves

Riggleman pulls Bailey after 5 innings, seeking a rally
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- If it means jump-starting the offense, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman is willing to pull a starter and rely on his bullpen. Hence, Riggleman pulled Homer Bailey for a pinch-hitter after just 50 pitches in five innings while trailing by four runs to the Braves.

Although Riggleman got his game-tying rally, courtesy of a Joey Votto three-run home run, the Reds did not get their victory. Atlanta scored two in the eighth and once in the ninth to hand Cincinnati a 7-4 loss on Thursday at Great American Ball Park. The Reds had to settle for a four-game split in the series.

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CINCINNATI -- If it means jump-starting the offense, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman is willing to pull a starter and rely on his bullpen. Hence, Riggleman pulled Homer Bailey for a pinch-hitter after just 50 pitches in five innings while trailing by four runs to the Braves.

Although Riggleman got his game-tying rally, courtesy of a Joey Votto three-run home run, the Reds did not get their victory. Atlanta scored two in the eighth and once in the ninth to hand Cincinnati a 7-4 loss on Thursday at Great American Ball Park. The Reds had to settle for a four-game split in the series.

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"Unfortunately we've come up short again, and we don't accept coming up short," Riggleman said. "But I think in three of the four ballgames, we were down by as much as four runs. Every one of those games we tied or went ahead."

Video: ATL@CIN: Riggleman praises middle of Braves lineup

Cincinnati won the first two games of the series but dropped the last two. It was Ronald Acuna Jr. who provided the go-ahead run in the finale with a blooped RBI double to right field in the eighth to snap a 4-4 tie.

Reds starter Homer Bailey was already behind by a 1-0 score in the second inning when Acuna clobbered a 3-1 pitch into the left field upper bleachers for a leadoff homer -- his first in the Major Leagues.

"I didn't feel that bad," Bailey said. "I was really trying to go deep in the game. The bullpen has been picking us up. That was kind of my plan. When you do that, you have to take a few chances there. My slider has been pretty bad the last two games. That's three home runs on sliders alone that have beat us."

After a stretch where he retired eight in a row into the fifth inning, Bailey gave up a one-out single to pitcher Sean Newcomb. With two outs, Ozzie Albies lifted a 1-0 pitch for a two-run homer to right field for a 4-0 Braves lead.

Bailey also surrendered two homers to the Cardinals in his previous start. One day after pulling Brandon Finnegan when he had 77 pitches through five innings and only three fresh relievers, Riggleman showed a quick hook of a starter again with Bailey.

Alex Blandino hit a one-out single, and Riggleman called back Bailey from the on-deck circle and had Phil Gosselin pinch-hit.

"Well, we're down 4-0. If we had two men out and nobody on, I would have went ahead and let him hit," Riggleman said. "At that point, a rally would be pretty far-fetched. With a man on, I felt like let's see if we can get a rally."

The Reds got the rally as Gosselin and Billy Hamilton each drew back-to-back four-pitch walks. Jose Peraza grounded to third base and narrowly beat out what would have been the inning-ending double play as Blandino scored.

Video: ATL@CIN: Peraza's fielder's choice plates Blandino

That enabled Votto to follow and launch an 0-1 pitch for the game-tying three-run homer to center field.

"I knew why he did it," Bailey said of the move. "He tried to get a rally and it worked out. We were able to score four that inning with Joey coming up big. He took a gamble, and it paid off for us, offensively."

Bullpens decided the last three games and for a while, Reds relievers held the Braves with zeros. Austin Brice and Amir Garrett combined for scoreless sixth and seventh innings, but Atlanta snapped the tie in the eighth against lefty Wandy Peralta who was working for the third time in four games after getting a break on Wednesday.

Freddie Freeman was on second base with a leadoff double when Acuna flared a popup to short right field. Scott Schebler ran in while Blandino ran back and made an unsuccessful diving attempt as the ball fell in for an RBI double.

"The two-out hits today were particularly painful," Riggleman said. "Peralta was throwing the ball particularly well. The two-out flare down the right-field line, there's really nothing you can do about that. He made a heck of a pitch. It was just in no-man's land. That was it."

Dansby Swanson's single through the left side scored Acuna for the two-run lead. The Braves scored again in the ninth against Dylan Floro with Albies' RBI double to right field that brought home Ender Inciarte.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Votto finding his power: When Votto lifted a Newcomb 93-mph fastball over the wall in center field, it gave him three home runs for the season -- one in each of the last three games. He has also reached safely in the last 11 straight games while raising his average from .236 on April 15 to .256 with a .358 on-base percentage. More >

Video: ATL@CIN: Votto belts a three-run homer to center

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Although he was 0-for-4 in his first game back from the disabled list, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez showed another reason why he was missed as he sat out with a fractured thumb: his defense. In the fourth inning, Suarez made a great diving stop to his right on Kurt Suzuki's sharp grounder. He was able to throw to first base from his knee to get the out.

Video: ATL@CIN: Suarez makes a slick diving stop at third

HE SAID IT
"Atlanta is really playing good. They're doing a great job. I think they're really a force -- four or five guys in the middle of that lineup -- when they come up, we just didn't have any answers for them." --Riggleman, on Braves hitters like Freeman, Nick Markakis and Suzuki -- among others.

UP NEXT
The Reds, who have not played in Minneapolis since 2001, will be playing at Target Field for the first time when they begin a brief three-game road trip vs. the Twins at 8:10 p.m. ET Friday. Scooter Gennett, Suarez and Jared Hughes are the only active Reds with experience playing there. Gennett should be back in the lineup following a pinch-hit appearance on Thursday. Right-hander Luis Castillo will make the start on the mound against Minnesota's Phil Hughes.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey, Joey Votto