Homers by Riley, Acuna can’t overcome Gausman’s start

Kevin Gausman allowed five runs in 4-2/3 innings of Friday night’s start against the Reds at SunTrust Park.

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Kevin Gausman allowed five runs in 4-2/3 innings of Friday night’s start against the Reds at SunTrust Park.

Kevin Gausman’s turn in the Braves’ pitching rotation proved problematic again Friday night. After allowing six runs across six innings in his previous start, he allowed five runs in 4-2/3 innings this time.

That was all the Cincinnati Reds needed for a 5-2 victory at SunTrust Park behind a strong start from former Brave (and former Georgia Bulldog) Alex Wood, who allowed two runs in 6-2/3 innings on solo homers by Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna.

Gausman’s outing raised his ERA for the season to a gaudy 6.19 after 16 starts and surely will raise questions about how long he’ll remain in the Braves’ starting rotation.

“Obviously, I’m not having the year that anybody thought I would,” Gausman said. “I’m not in the situation I want to be right now.

“But we play again tomorrow, and I’m going to get the ball again in five days, hopefully. That’s my focus, to go out there and use those days in between to work on some things.”

Asked late Friday whether Gausman will make his next scheduled start Wednesday at Minnesota, manager Brian Snitker said he’ll discuss plans with general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

Friday’s start was Gausman’s third since a six-week injured-list stint that was attributed to plantar fasciitis and also believed to be a chance for him to regroup and work on expanding his repertoire.

His first start back was encouraging as he held the Washington Nationals to one run on five hits in seven innings July 21. But his two subsequent starts have been discouraging.

In those starts – Sunday at Philadelphia and Friday vs. the Reds – Gausman allowed a total of 17 hits, 11 runs and four home runs in 11-2/3 innings. At least one run has been scored against him in six of the last 10 full innings he has pitched.

The Reds had eight hits against Gausman, including at least one in every inning. They scored two runs within the game’s first four pitches, Jesse Winker leading off with a single and scoring on a Joey Votto homer. The Reds tacked on another run in the third and two in the fourth. They had two runners on base when Josh Tomlin relieved Gausman with two out in the fifth and induced a popup to end the inning.

“I just never really got in a rhythm, to be honest,” Gausman said.

Wood, meanwhile, was tough on the Braves hitters with the exception of one swing apiece by Riley and Acuna.

Riley’s fifth-inning home run was his 17th since being promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett on May 15, but it was his first since July 6, a stretch of 48 at-bats. In that stretch,  Riley hit .152 with 21 strikeouts.

“I needed a night like this,” Riley said after Friday’s game. “Hopefully it continues. … Just one step closer to getting things rolling.”

In his first at-bat, Riley flew out to the center-field wall. On his second at-bat, he homered. On his third, he flew out to center. He didn’t strike out in the game.

“Overall, good at-bats -- really just spitting on a bunch of pitches and getting a pitch that I can drive,” Riley said.

Acuna drove a massive 463-foot home run to left field with a 115.5-mph exit velocity in the sixth inning. It was the longest homer by a Braves player in SunTrust Park’s three-year history, as well as the hardest-hit base hit by a Braves player at the stadium, according to Statcast.

But those solo homers were as much as the Braves could do to cut into the Reds’ early lead. The Braves had just four hits in the game off Wood and none off two Cincinnati relievers.

Newly acquired Braves reliever Chris Martin worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning in his first appearance post-trade, striking out one.

“I loved it,” Snitker said of Martin’s debut. “It was exactly what we were told to expect. He hadn’t pitched in five or six days, so it was good to get him out there.”

With the series even at a game apiece, the Braves and Reds will play again Saturday night at SunTrust Park.  There will be an interesting pitching matchup of the Braves’ Dallas Keuchel vs. the Reds’ Trevor Bauer.

Keuchel is 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA since signing with the Braves as a free agent in June, and Bauer was 9-8 with a 3.79 ERA for the Cleveland Indians before being dealt to Cincinnati this week.