The Braves lost, 4-3, after Albert Almora Jr. hit a hard grounder that went past a diving Austin Riley and into left field to score the winning run. And this came after Marcell Ozuna and Michael Harris both hit solo shots to tie the game in the top of the ninth at Great American Ball Park.
The Braves led by a run when Morton departed. Collin McHugh entered for the eighth inning and allowed three runs. Then his offense picked him up. Then Minter surrendered the winning run.
“Tip your hats off to Cincinnati, just chipping away, doing what they could,” Minter said. “I just feel like Cincinnati deserved to win that game, and they did.”
The Braves are still 46-34. They went 4-2 on a road trip that began in Philadelphia. They are closer to the first-place Mets than they’ve been since April.
Atlanta is in a great spot.
But the Braves could have swept the Reds.
In the bottom of the ninth, Minter gave up a leadoff single before walking one batter and hitting another to load the bases. That’s when Almora hit a ball that scored the winning run.
“I guess just trying to be a little too perfect,” Minter said. “You know you can’t give up a run there, so I was just trying to be too perfect and just nibbling here and there.”
One key play in the ninth: Minter had appeared to catch Tommy Pham stealing. He threw to Matt Olson, who fired to Dansby Swanson. Swanson, one of baseball’s best defensive shortstops, dropped the ball and couldn’t apply the tag.
Another: A foul ball landed in foul territory and a couple Braves were near it, but neither caught it. It seemed like a tough play for all of them, especially because of the afternoon sun that can cause issues for fielders anywhere near left field here.
An inning before that, McHugh allowed three straight singles and a double. Matt Reynolds, who hit the third single, tied the game. Brandon Drury, who laced the double, plated two runs to put Atlanta in a two-run hole.
“I made bad pitches,” McHugh said. “They put pretty decent swings on it. The only decent pitch that they hit was Drury hit a pretty solid cutter away, took it the other way to the opposite field, and with runners on, that’s what happens.”
Even still, the Braves rallied. Ozuna led off the top of the ninth with a homer off Hunter Strickland. Minutes later, with the Braves down to their final out, Harris launched a 425-foot, game-tying bomb.
“Guys came roaring back, man,” manager Brian Snitker said.
Out of nowhere, the Braves, who saw a one-run lead turn into a two-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth, had come back and grabbed new life. They pushed to take advantage of Morton’s terrific start.
Morton, who has had an up-and-down season, put together what is probably his best performance of the year. He held the Reds to that one hit over seven innings, striking out 10 and walking one. He threw 94 pitches, and 62 of them were strikes. Sunday marked Morton’s third scoreless outing of the season.
The Reds’ Luis Castillo, who seems likely to be traded to a contender, hurled seven innings of one-run baseball. The Braves collected six hits off Castillo but couldn’t notch the big hit.
Ozuna cranked a home run to left field off Castillo with two outs in the fourth inning. For most of this game, it seemed that Ozuna’s homer might be enough.
Before Sunday’s eighth inning, McHugh hadn’t allowed a run in his previous 5 ⅔ innings. He went to the COVID injured list in June, but returned and started to pitch well. Minter entered the game with a 1.59 ERA but has allowed a run in four of his past eight appearances.
The Braves saw Sunday’s game slip away, but they’re looking at the road trip as a whole.
“That’s what you have to do,” Snitker said. “We won two series. That’s what we set out to do. You want to sweep ... it’s not that easy. But it was a good road trip.”
Reds 4, Braves 3 (box score)