Braves try to build on momentum as Reds visit

Field Level Media

August 10, 2021 at 3:27 am.

The Braves didn’t acquire any high-priced names at the trade deadline, but the deals the team crafted have helped Atlanta get back in the National League East race.

The Braves will try to get closer beginning on Tuesday when they host the opener of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, who have their own playoff concerns. The two clubs, who met in an NL wild-card series a year ago, split a four-game set at Cincinnati in June.

Atlanta starts the series two games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. Cincinnati is 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and also is in the mix for the second NL wild card.

In a series of deadline moves, most involving players the club did not see as long-term solutions, the Braves were able to acquire outfielders Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario and reliever Richard Rodriguez. Other than Rosario, who is on the injured list, each has made an impact and helped the Braves go 6-2 since July 31.

“Our new additions have really done a good job,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “They’ve all come in here and contributed. (General manager) Alex Anthopoulos and his team have done a great job with the influx of these guys. I guess this is the right time of year to get it going, and a lot of the new guys have added to that.”

The Braves are expected to activate catcher Travis d’Arnaud from the injured list on Tuesday. He has been out since May 2 following surgery to repair ligaments in his left thumb.

“Once we get Travis back, we’re going to have a pretty good hitter hitting eighth,” Snitker said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty good lineup.”

The Reds have been on a roll, too. They had their five-game winning streak broken on Monday when they lost 9-3 to the host Cleveland Indians in a makeup game.

The mound opponents for the series opener will be Atlanta left-hander Drew Smyly (7-3, 4.50 ERA) against Cincinnati right-hander Sonny Gray (4-6, 4.44).

Smyly carries a five-game winning streak into the game; his last loss came on May 26 at Boston. However, the 32-year-old veteran lasted just four innings in each of his three most recent outings, putting added stress on the bullpen to cover more ground. In his latest start, against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, he allowed three runs on six hits.

Smyly is 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in four career appearances, three starts, against Cincinnati. He beat the Reds 3-2 on June 25 when he allowed one run in six innings.

Gray won his latest start, on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he tossed five innings and allowed four runs. He was inconsistent in five starts during July, going 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA and twice working fewer than five innings.

Gray is looking for his first win against Atlanta. In four career starts vs. the Braves, the most recent occurring in 2019, he is 0-2 with a 3.16 ERA.

The Reds got a bullpen boost Sunday when right-hander Lucas Sims returned from a sprained right elbow that had sidelined him since late June. He pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts on Monday, allowing one hit and one walk.

“He’s healthy,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said. “It was a good opportunity to get him an inning.”