“Where the three teams are, that could be a daily occurrence,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Thursday’s shuffle in the standings. “But that’s OK -- we’re right there.”
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Dansby Swanson’s bloop single to right field after a pair of walks to Jorge Soler and Austin Riley. But a grand slam by the Reds’ Jesse Winker off a Muller slider in the second inning gave Cincinnati a 4-1 lead and set the tone for the game.
Winker’s homer, his 24th of the season, came after Muller surrendered two-out singles to the Reds’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters (Tyler Naquin and pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez) and a walk to Jonathan India to load the bases.
Muller, a rookie left-hander, got into trouble again in the third inning and yielded to reliever Josh Tomlin with one out and two runners on base. Both of those inherited runners – and more -- scored as Tomlin allowed a ground-rule RBI double and two home runs (a three-run shot by Naquin and a solo blast by India) before the inning ended with the Braves trailing 9-1.
The Reds added two more runs in the sixth inning on a homer by Kyle Farmer (of Marist School and the University of Georgia) against Tomlin and another in the ninth on a homer by Tyler Stephenson (of Kennesaw Mountain High) against Edgar Santana. The Braves got a run on Ozzie Albies’ 20th homer of the season in the seventh inning, his second homer in two nights, and a ninth-inning run that scored on a wild pitch.
Reds 12, Braves 3 (box score)
Muller needed 72 pitches to get through his 2-1/3 innings of work, a performance that exacerbated his trend of short starts. He hadn’t gone longer than five innings in any of his past four starts. On Thursday, he was charged with six runs on five hits and three walks, raising his ERA to 4.17 and ending his stint in the starting rotation for now with Huascar Ynoa and Ian Anderson both expected to return soon from minor-league rehab assignments.
“They hit pitches they should hit,” Muller said of the Reds. “I wasn’t putting anybody away. My two-strike pitches weren’t good, and then I was getting behind in counts. I wasn’t using the (fastball) effectively, and so they were just sitting on my slider.”
Ynoa has made three rehab starts and Anderson two. Asked before Thursday’s game when Ynoa will be activated, Snitker said: “We really haven’t talked about it yet.” But Snitker added that “overall his stuff was really good” in Ynoa’s latest start at Gwinnett on Wednesday.
Thursday’s loss was just the Braves’ second in their past nine games. It came less than 24 hours after a walk-off three-run homer by Albies in the 11th inning Wednesday gave them an 8-6 win over the Reds and a share of the NL East lead with Philadelphia.
“You look at the big picture, we won another series,” Snitker said after Thursday’s loss. “We keep winning series, we’re going to be OK.”