The Cincinnati Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo in the hopes that he could provide some improvement in the leadoff spot.
He’s certainly doing that, and now he’s also coming through in the clutch.
A day after connecting for a walkoff homer, Choo looks to continue his stellar production at home and help the Reds to another victory over the Atlanta Braves in the finale of this three-game set Wednesday.
Choo spent six-plus seasons in Cleveland, playing mostly in right field and batting third. Still, Cincinnati (19-15) felt he could solve its issues at the top of the lineup while playing center field, and acquired him in a three-team, nine-player trade in December.
The Reds got a .208 average and .254 on-base percentage out of leadoff hitters last year, and so far the addition of Choo is proving to be a very good one.
Choo is among the best leadoff hitters in baseball with a .333 average, a .465 on-base percentage and 27 runs, while leading Cincinnati with seven homers. He’s been particularly impressive at home, where he’s batting .413 with a .560 on-base percentage and 17 runs in helping the Reds win 13 of 18 at Great American Ball Park.
Choo is also hitting .359 with two homers and six RBIs beyond the sixth inning.
He came up big in the clutch Tuesday, when he followed Devin Mesoraco’s two out pinch-hit homer in the ninth off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel with a solo shot of his own to clinch a 5-4 win.
“He’s the best closer in the league,” Choo said of Kimbrel, who has blown three of 13 save opportunities to match his total from all of last year.
The Reds have won nine of 11 at home against Atlanta (19-13), hitting 20 homers and averaging 4.6 runs.
Mike Leake (2-1, 4.15) is scheduled to get the ball in an effort to continue his success against the Braves.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career meetings, pitching eight strong innings in a 4-1 victory May 21 in the only home matchup.
Leake allowed two runs and scattered nine hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-5 victory at Wrigley Field on Friday.
He’s 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three home starts.
Tuesday’s loss was the eighth in 11 road games for the Braves, who are batting .220 in those contests.
They’re also becoming frustrated with their struggles in Cincinnati.
“Anytime we’re here, the ballpark is kind of an excuse,” said Kris Medlen, who allowed two runs in seven innings and was in line for the win Tuesday. “But that Mesoraco fly ball is a fly-ball out in a lot of places.”
Scheduled starter Mike Minor (3-2, 3.26) has allowed four homers over his last two games after yielding one in his first 19 innings.
After allowing six runs over 6 2-3 innings in an 8-3 loss at Detroit, the left-hander struggled early in Friday’s 7-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets, giving up three runs on two homers in the first two innings. However, he rebounded by retiring his last 18 batters before exiting after the seventh.
In his only start against the Reds, Minor was reached for a career-high four homers in six innings of a 4-1 road loss opposite Leake on May 21.
He’ll want to be careful with Joey Votto, who is hitting .425 over the past 10 games after getting three hits in this series.